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'I don't think Hibbs had ever experienced a player speaking to him like Johnny did'

By Ian Cameron

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Even as stroppy flyhalves go, Ireland’s Johnny Sexton’s reputation for rattiness on the training pitch precedes him.

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Known at Leinster as ‘The Rat’ due to his tendency to dress down teammates if they don’t meet his exacting standards in training, Sexton’s infamy among players is not limited by geographic borders, with Welsh, French, English and Scottish teammates feeling his wrath over the years.

Former Racing Metro’s coach Bernard Labit claimed that the Dubliner’s former teammates described him as ‘the Zlatan Ibrahimovic of rugby’ due to verbals he would aim at his them in training. Such was the extent of the French shock at Sexton’s bedside manner, that it said to have played a major role in what was a relatively mediocre couple of seasons in Paris.

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Episode 34 – Jamie Roberts & Simon Zebo on South Africa’s Move North, French Owners, Sexton’s Temper and Lions Greats
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Episode 34 – Jamie Roberts & Simon Zebo on South Africa’s Move North, French Owners, Sexton’s Temper and Lions Greats

According to one report at the time, Sexton even had to be saved by teammates after getting into an altercation with 6’6, 115kg Racing Metro lock Juandré Kruger, although that incident was said to be the result of Sexton taking exception to excessive force being used in a training session.

Former British and Irish Lion Jamie Roberts however recalls an incident where the Irishman nearly bit off more than he could chew, namely in Welsh hooker Richard Hibbard. Roberts recounts how Hibbard took exception to Sexton during a Lions training session in Noosa in Queensland in the lead up to the deciding Test of the 2013 series.

“I don’t think Hibbs had ever experienced a player speaking to him in training like Johnny did.

“Look, Johnny’s a competitive bloke.

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“But it felt quite personal towards Hibbs.

“I think Hibbs messed up one of the plays.

“We are talking about training three days before a Lions Test match, so the session’s quite important.

“Johnny spoke to Hibbs like…

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“The evils Hibbs gave Johnny — it’s hard to put into words.”

“It wasn’t a scrap.

“Luckily it didn’t make it to a scrap — I can’t imagine Johnny’s the best streetfighter.”

“Fair play to Hibbs, he did his utmost just to grit his teeth and hold his nerve, but if he had his time again I think he’d probably lose it.

“But it was such a funny moment because all the other lads were just, like: ‘Wow!’

“It was awesome.

“But we won the Test match. I’ve played with Johnny at Racing and know what he’s like. He’s spoken to me on many occasions like that as well,” continued Roberts.

“He’s won quite a bit in his career, so it obviously works. We all have our own little different ways of pushing people’s buttons, don’t we?”

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'I don't think Hibbs had ever experienced a player speaking to him like Johnny did'

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