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Why Earls has named Sexton the best player he ever played with

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Veteran international Keith Earls has named Johnny Sexton, Ireland rugby’s latest Test centurion, as the best player he has ever played with – quite a compliment given the winger would have also played with the Irish legends such as Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara and Brian O’Driscoll.

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Ahead of the Autumn Nations Series, which features matches for Ireland in Dublin against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina, the 34-year-old Earls last month published his autobiography – Fight Or Flight, My Life, My Choices.

Earls came off the bench in the series opener last Saturday to win his 94th cap on the same day when the 36-year-old out-half Sexton made his 100th Test appearance for Ireland, bringing his tally of Test caps up to 106 as he has also made a half-dozen appearances for the Lions.

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In his book, Earls outlined precisely why he ranks Sexton as the best player he has ever played with. “Sexton is the best player I have ever played with. And I was privileged to play with some great ones. But he is the greatest for me. What he gets out of a team, what he gets out of himself, his whole understanding of the game is world-class.

“He knows everyone else’s role inside out, as well as his own. He has a rugby brain like a computer. It’s like the game slows down in his head when he’s making decisions. His ability to see scenarios on the run and make a decision at the last second is fascinating to watch up close. 

“He will leave it to the last fraction of the last second. And he is a ferocious competitor. He has all the mental and physical courage. The success that Leinster and Irish rugby has had over the last decade and more, he has been a major part of it all. Look at what he has won, what he has achieved. For me, he is one of the greatest Irish sportsmen of the last 20 years.”   

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Elsewhere in the book, Earls revealed how he was diagnosed as bipolar in 2013 and how from about 2017 until the end of 2020 that his lung capacity was only functioning at about 50 per cent due to his liver being affected by loosened ligaments which caused a breathing dysfunction. Both Earls and Sexton are in the Ireland squad that is currently preparing to face the All Blacks in Dublin this Saturday.

 

 

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