LEINSTER BACKS COACH Felipe Contepomi doesn’t expect to see Jonathan Sexton put off his usual approach and natural game after his communication style was highlighted by England head coach Eddie Jones.

Jones’ side face Ireland in Dublin in the opening round of the Six Nations (2 February) and the Australian stoked the flames before the clash by taking issue with Sexton’s dealings with officials, saying he has the ‘batphone’ to the referee. 

“He is the only one allowed to pick up the red phone to talk to the referee,” Jones said of the World Rugby Player of the Year.

Contepomi dismissed the comment as nothing more than an outside distraction. And he feels Sexton will do likewise. 

“Eddie said it, I’ll put it that way,” said the Argentine.

“Johnny is the player he is. If some referees pay attention to what he has to say it’s because he earned the right to talk to them. Johnny’s not a guy who will influence referees. He’s very confident on what Ireland can do and how they can win the game and their preparation, their scouting. I don’t think he’ll be worried about (comments from Jones).”

“I think the most important thing is what you do in your preparation, how you get into the game. What you do in scouting and analysing the other team.

“Some people, they play that game as well. It’s part of the showbiz.”

Sexton’s chances of playing a role in the marquee fixture of the Championship was boosted last week as he stepped up his running programme in his return to fitness. 

Contepomi overseeing training at UCD yesterday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

This week’s trip to Portugal for Ireland training mean he will go into the Six Nations a full five weeks on from his last competitive appearance. Contepomi feels that would be a worry for many players, but Sexton has been through this scenario many times before. He knows how to get himself big-game ready.

“The ideal is to be playing and having time. But when you speak about a guy like Johnny Sexton with so much experience and so many games under his belt. I think the crucial thing is to see how fit he is rather than game-time.

“If you were speaking about a guy who is first year (in his) international career going into a game without playing rugby for a month – into that type of game, England-Ireland — it would be tough. But with Johnny, he knows.

“He’s got a lot of experience, so it’s about his fitness. If his leg is fine. I don’t see that as a problem.”

Subscribe to our new podcast, Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42, here: