Calm approach to referee by Johnny Sexton is ‘key’ as Ireland aim to bounce back against Russia

Johnny Sexton during captain's run at Kobe Misaki Stadium, Japan.
Johnny Sexton during captain's run at Kobe Misaki Stadium, Japan.
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Johnny Sexton must “stay positive” with referee Jerome Garces when captaining Ireland for the first time in Thursday’s World Cup clash with Russia (11.15 BST), according to Andy Farrell.

British and Irish Lions fly-half Sexton will become Ireland’s 106th Test captain when leading Joe Schmidt’s side against the Russians in Kobe.

Ireland must hit back to winning ways this week after their shock 19-12 loss to Japan to set their Pool A campaign back on on track.

Head coach Schmidt has made 11 changes from the line-up that lost out to the tournament hosts, in a bid to handle the five-day turnaround between matches.

So with regular skipper Rory Best rested Sexton takes the captaincy - and defence coach Farrell has backed the 34-year-old to stay calm when dealing with the officials.

“Johnny cares so much; I think you’ve seen with his captaincy at Leinster that he’s learned from those situations, and it helps his game,” said Farrell.

“We talked about those conditions on Thursday night. Things will happen that aren’t going to plan and we need to stay positive with each other and the referee in the way that we play the game as well.

“So Johnny is aware of all that.”

Ireland came out on the wrong side of referee Angus Gardner in Saturday’s shock defeat by the Brave Blossoms.

Boss Schmidt has since suggested Ireland must handle the officials with more of a kid-glove approach, and Farrell has every confidence in Sexton to lead that style.

Sexton’s fiery on-field persona has often seen him fall foul of referees in the past, but Farrell believes he has already adapted that element.

Peter O’Mahony has captained Ireland in the past and will start against Russia in the back-row, with Farrell insisting there was precious little to choose between Sexton and the Munster flanker when selecting today’s captain.

Asked why Sexton had been given the captaincy nod ahead of O’Mahony, Farrell said: “Well it’s always been a toss of a coin with those two because they’re so influential on the team and such good professionals and with the experience they’ve both got.

“Johnny has been great within camp the whole pre-season, he’s right on song and he’s determined to put his feelings across to the team.

“His calmness of how to deal with these situations is going to be crucial in the next two weeks.”