Now 36, Sexton is the oldest member of the Irish squad today named for the Guinness Six Nations 2022 and will aim to claim a fourth championship title this year.
And for Heaslip, his longtime teammate at Ireland and Leinster and now a pundit at RTÉ, the closest comparison is to Sexton NFL quarterback Tom Brady, winner of a record seven Super Bowls and widely regarded as the greatest of all time to have played. american football.
“Johnny is head and shoulders above all the rest,” said Heaslip, speaking on the day a historic partnership between RTÉ and Virgin Media Television was announced, making all of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Rugby action available for Irish sports. . fans.
“Jack Carty has to take the opportunity when he gets it, there are a lot of other guys sniffing around. But to me Johnny is the goat, he’s not going anywhere. He is now the Tom Brady of the IRFU. He’s not giving up on that jersey. He is head and shoulders and everyone else must stand up.”
Alan Quinlan, an pundit for Virgin Media, agreed, while backing Connacht fly-half Carty to support Sexton.
He said: “Johnny Sexton is not giving up the jersey and we saw in November how good his performance was and how important he still is to this team.
“I think at this stage (on the bench) it should be Jack Carty because his form was exceptional. What happened at the World Cup there was a bit of a hangover and it affected his confidence and ability.
“Obviously it’s a crucial position and I think the way he’s played over the last few months has been really exciting. He’s grown in his game and has more control over his game and seems to have the confidence and bit of excitement that you need.”
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) January 19, 2022
As well as Sexton, Heaslip is excited to see the progress of Caelan Doris, one of Ireland’s most standout performers in the Autumn Nations Series, who won three out of three matches, including a convincing win over the All Blacks.
Heaslip said: “Caelan Doris, I’m very excited to see him. He has some international experience in his pocket.
“I’m really excited to see him come into his own, kicking through and really seeing what he’s made of. Now that he’s set a marker, teams will pay him a little more attention, and behind the scenes there will be a lot more reviews about him.”
And while Heaslip believes Ireland will enter the Championship as the second favorite, he and Quinlan tipped the same team to win the trophy on Super Saturday.
Quinlan said: “The obvious candidates are always France and England. Ireland won a Grand Slam in 2018 by going to Paris and Twickenham and winning. Will that happen again? It’s quite a task.
“If they can deliver the same level of performance and start winning the first game against Wales, get off to a good start and get a bit of momentum, they could be in the mix.
“But for me it’s France. They have three home games, they start with Italy, then they have Ireland, with England to finish. If they can do well, what we’ve seen from them in November and also last year, they’re really building something, so they’re my favorites.”
Virgin Media Television & RTÉ today announced the details of their landmark partnership to bring all Six Nations Rugby action free-to-air by 2022.
— Virgin Media Sports (@VMSportIE) January 19, 2022
Heaslip added: “I will say France is my favorite to win, the way they play, the youth they have in the squad and the hunger and energy around it. I think that will be a big plus for them. Their clubs are doing well, although Ireland is probably the second favourite. Our clubs are doing really well, all four of them look like they have the potential to qualify for Europe.
“England is an interesting proposition because Eddie has done what he did at the last World Cup, 18 months after he wiped out the squad, brought in a lot of new faces, started a fire among a lot of people. It’s going to be interesting to see them respond to that.
“Ireland, when you talk to some of the players you get the feeling that something is wrong with this group. If they get off to a good start that’s all you need. If you can get out of the first two games clear and you have two wins in your pocket, then a lot of momentum goes into that break.”
RTÉ and Virgin Media Television today announced the details of their landmark partnership to make all Guinness Six Nations Rugby action free to Irish sports fans by 2022. Coverage includes all games from the Men’s, Women’s and Under-20 Championships.