While it was brilliant to see Ireland put Romania to the sword in their opening fixture of Rugby World Cup this afternoon, it was perhaps even more encouraging to see Johnny Sexton perform in the manner that he did.
In the run in to the tournament, there was some nervousness around his physical conditioning. After all, he has not played a game for six months due to injury and the suspension he picked up as a result of his actions during the Champions Cup final.
Thankfully from an Irish perspective, he didn't miss a beat upon his return.
Not only did he put in a top class performance that featured two tries and a personal tally of 24 points, but his conditioning was top class as the 38-year old played 65 minutes in the searing Bordeaux heat.
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) September 9, 2023
Having come through this game unscathed, it's fair to say that Johnny Sexton looks primed for a big World Cup.
Simon Zebo says Ireland stars will having Johnny Sexton back
Coming into this tournament, it was understandable why some were worried about the physical condition of Johnny Sexton. After all, it's difficult to overstate just how important he is to this Ireland team.
Not only is he a leader both on and off the pitch, but he also opens up avenues of play that very few other 'tens' in world rugby can, especially when it comes to linking up with the backs on his team.
Speaking on RTÉ, Simon Zebo explained why the players in those positions enjoy playing with Sexton so much.
There are many things that make him the world class player that he is. As an outside back specifically, it's the timing on his depth perception. If there is an overlap he might pivot past, but if a team is coming up hard when they have an overlap, he will still take one or two steps and then dump it off.
He generally won't throw big wide passes that let defenders into the space to get man and ball tackles. He's very controlled and listens really well.
He is a really good listener. That's a huge part of rugby, especially if you're communicating with you ten and trying to get your hands on the ball. He has a lot of trust on the outside...
If you're trying to play with width, you need to get to the defensive line and entice them. At the same time, you can't use up all the yards and get shut down on the outside spaces.
That's why Johnny is so key. You would often see him attacking with the ball, taking three or four steps, and then the next play they might be onto it out wide. There is good chat from the centres, giving him the information. He always listens and can give that pass like a pivot.
He can catch, give, and he knows when that space is on the outside.
Zebo's words certainly explain why Johnny Sexton is key to the way Ireland play.
Andy Farrell will be hoping that his captain remains fit and firing for the entire tournament, although you can be sure that he will carefully manage him over the coming weeks.
Should he perform to his best, it will go a long way towards potentially ending Ireland's World Cup hoodoo.