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Warren Gatland Had Curious Things To Say About Johnny Sexton's Attitude

Warren Gatland Had Curious Things To Say About Johnny Sexton's Attitude
By Gavan Casey

With his Lions coaching team announced, Warren Gatland addressed the media at Carton House, Dublin yesterday, with just seven months remaining until his touring side arrive on the shores of his native land.

The subject of much debate, even since last year, has been the starting fly-half berth, with George Forde and Dan Biggar putting their hands up over the last 18 months as potential challengers to Johnny Sexton, who performed at 10 in 2013.

Sexton has been definitively ruled out of action for Leinster's Champions Cup trip to Northampton on Friday evening, and questions regarding his durability remain - fairly, it must be said, considering the 31-year-old has been blighted by problems since that last Lions tour, and was forced off prematurely for Ireland both in Chicago and at home to the All Blacks last month.

Gatland, however, remained coy as to whether he'll even call Sexton up, and posed questions as to how the Leinster man might react "around the team and squad" if he was ruled out mid-tour:

Obviously Johnny hasn’t played a lot of rugby recently. You want him to get through the Six Nations.

It’s making sure I do my job properly. You look at the quality of someone like Johnny Sexton and the experience he’s had. The conversation with Jonny might be, ‘We might take you on tour. There’s been a little bit of concern about your durability. If you do pick up a knock or an injury and you’re out for a couple of weeks, the quality of the squad is such that someone else could step into your shoes and when you come back, normally when you come back in an Irish situation, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out, you go straight back into the team as number one.'

If you come into a Lions situation, if someone is playing well, you might not be going back into that starting side as the 10, you might be sitting on the bench or not involved. How are you going to be able to handle that? Are you going to be prepared for that? What’s your attitude around the team and squad going to be like?

It's a somewhat odd question to ask of a veteran and consummate professional such as Sexton, who hardly seems the type of character to become disruptive behind the scenes were he to fall behind in the pecking order at 10.

Perhaps, given the venue for his press conference, Gatland was merely asking the Irish public not to bay for his blood should the 63-cap international be 'unceremoniously axed' for a Test or two in New Zealand.

Irrespective of his motives, it's clear he and Sexton will be having quite a hard-hitting conversation in due course:

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If I’m doing my job properly, I’ve had that conversation with him and potentially he’s got his head right and he’s prepared for that potential eventuality if it does happen.

I think Johnny probably knows he’s probably under a little bit of pressure to be fit and perform too.

Just like pretty much every professional athlete, then - not least one of the finest to put boot to ball for club and country.

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Gatland announces his Lions squad on April 19th.

SEE ALSO: Shane Byrne Gives Intriguing Take On Who Should Start In Ireland's Back Row For The 6 Nations

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