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Sexton warns of 'distractions and hype' before Champions Cup final

By Tom Webber
Leinster and Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is putting aside “distractions and hype” in the build-up to the European Champions Cup final against Racing 92 on Saturday.


The Irish province will match Toulouse’s record of four titles if they triumph at San Mames, with Sexton having featured in their triumphs of 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Leinster, whose last trophy came in the Pro12 in 2014, will be captained by Isa Nacewa in his final European match before heading into retirement, while Fergus McFadden (hamstring) and Sean O’Brien (shoulder) miss out due to injury.

Ireland international Sexton is keen to avoid focusing too heavily on the scenarios facing individuals in the team and hone in on getting the job done in Bilbao.

“Your mind wanders during the week, it can take you different places,” he said at a news conference on Friday.

“Why do you want to win the game? Is it for Isa in his last European game? For the injured players? But none of that really matters. It’s about performing.



“You can get to dreaming and thinking about things you shouldn’t. You’ve got to use it as motivation a little bit but then park them.

“If you think about the last time we won the trophy and how long it’s been, that’s a distraction. You have to go out there and play. We have to top our quarter-final, semi-final performances because we know we’re going to have to go to another level to win the game.

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Video: Johnny Sexton discusses nerves ahead of the game

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“Ultimately, if you want to feel fulfilled at the end of the game you have to play well as an individual, as a team and you have to win. And it’s in that order of importance: take care of your own job, do your best for the team and hopefully the result will follow.

“I get nervous the week of a final. You wake up the week of a big game and you feel different. Sleep can be a struggle, nerves can be a struggle, but you’ve just got to try focus your attention on getting what’s important right. On putting all your energy into that and leaving all the distractions and hype to one side.”

Racing have named Dan Carter among the replacements with Pat Lambie starting at fly-half, and Leinster coach Leo Cullen – who is aiming to become the first individual to win the Champions Cup as a player and coach – highlighted the contrasting styles in club development.

“When you’ve got Dan Carter on the bench, it says it all really as for what Racing have built over the last seven or eight years and what they’ve assembled in terms of an expensive bunch of players,” said Cullen.


“We have to do things slightly differently in Leinster where we produce guys from within mainly and bring in a couple of key signings from overseas.

“It’s a clash of styles over how you assemble a squad. We’re under no illusions it’s a very formidable bunch of players we will be up against tomorrow.

“Now it’s about doing the things that have worked to get us here in the first place and hopefully the players can execute it on the day.”

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