“Johnny Sexton Will Not Be Easy To Replace” – Andy Farrell


As a relatively fresh group of flyhalves step up to the plate, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is confident that the defending Guinness Six Nations champions can keep improving as a team, although it will be difficult to replace Johnny Sexton.

Jonathan Sexton dominated the number 10 jersey for a number of years, being at the helm for some of Irish Rugby’s greatest days, and his retirement post-Rugby World Cup has opened the door for a successor to emerge in this pivotal position.

Asked about his options regarding Sexton’s replacement, Farrell said: “Look, it’s obviously going to be difficult to replace a one-in-a-generation type player. But all good things come to an end, Johnny’s started a new career and we’ve got to make sure that we keep improving as a team," coach Andy Farrell said.

“The lads that are in the squad, the three of them, and obviously Sam Prendergast is coming along with us for 10 days into the training camp before the first game."

"Those lads have learnt off the best, they’ve been around Johnny over the last four or five years. A couple of them were at the same province as him."

Ireland’s selected Six Nations squad includes three flyhalf contenders, Jack Crowley, Harry Byrne and Ciaran Frawley, while Leinster’s Sam Prendergast has also been brought into camp as a training panellist.

Crowley, who turned 24 earlier this month, has the most international experience of the trio, boosting his Ireland caps tally to nine with three appearances off the bench during the World Cup.

The talented Munster play-maker started the November 2022 win over Australia, following up with his Six Nations debut as a replacement during the closing stages against Italy last February. He had 80-minute run-outs against both Italy and Samoa before the World Cup.

“I know that Jack Crowley has been like a sponge with him over the last few years anyway. So, his legacy will be passed down, I do not doubt that," Farrell said.

Like Crowley, the multi-skilled Frawley was part of the Emerging Ireland squad that played in the Toyota Challenge in South Africa in 2022. A few months before that, the Skerries man (26) toured New Zealand with the Ireland squad, starting both games against the Māori All Blacks.

Known for his versatility, he has lined out at full-back, out-half and inside centre for Leinster this season. His Ireland experience has included a start at number 10 for Ireland ‘A’ against the All Blacks XV, and he made his Test debut as a half-time replacement against Italy last August.

The younger of Leinster’s Byrne brothers, Harry has two Ireland caps to his name having made cameo appearances against the USA and Argentina in 2021. He was part of the Ireland squad that visited New Zealand the following summer, but a hamstring injury cut his tour short.

The 24-year-old, a classy operator since his Ireland Under-20 days, has had seven starts at out-half for Leinster so far this season. He returned from an ankle injury to help them overcome Leicester Tigers 27-10 last Saturday.

Frawley donned the number 10 jersey the previous week against Stade Francais at the Aviva Stadium, while Crowley has made nine starts for Munster to date during the 2023/24 campaign.