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The sporting gods do not grant exemption from the sickbay on talent alone.
Nobody needs to be reminded of his athletic grace or superior footballing instinct. The boy’s gift is his ability to glide on the soles of his feet and to see things clearly and early where mere mortals are just about figuring them out.
That lithe figure begets the fact that he still operates out of the physique of an adolescent and his career has now faltered, maybe terminally, on the basis of how often – and easily – he gets injured. At the tender age of 24, Ireland – and quite possibly Munster – may just have to plan without him.
The position of out-half is repeatedly re-defined as the seasons roll. It does not matter what level or era you played in – it seems that an out-half is first in line for physical contact and at all stages, you just do not want your commander in chief stuck at the bottom of a ruck or tackling 20-stone forwards. The thing is once somebody gets around the corner, the first man up is usually your fly-half.
It was interesting to look at the stats for the 2019 Six Nations. It confirms what I’m saying. Johnny Sexton had to make around 33 tackles for the championship – more than any other back, except Bundee Aki. Owen Farrell made 42 (not all of them legal). Now maybe these two go looking for trouble and quite often Joe Schmidt would have lost his patience with his pivot because if you are at the bottom of a ruck, you can’t control the game.
If you are tackling big powerful forwards, who will try and hit you as hard as they can, there is an inevitability about the outcome. How many times have we seen Sexton go down after making a hit?
I played against Australia four times and on each occasion, Michael Lynagh was the Wallaby out-half. I reckon I got around the corner half a doze
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