He may be “cranky at times” but Johnny Sexton’s attitude is “invaluable” to Ireland, says Paul O’Connell.
The 35-year-old Ireland skipper signed a one-year central contract with the IRFU last week and if selected to face Scotland on Sunday will win his 98th Irish cap.
The Leinster man has been plagued with a series of minor injuries in recent years, but notably played the full 80 minutes in Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations win over Italy in round three.
A serious hamstring injury while playing in the World Cup in 2015 ended O’Connell’s stellar playing career aged 36 and the Ireland forwards coach believes Sexton’s presence serves a purpose, on and off the field.
“He can be cranky at times but by and large, he makes people feel good,” said O’Connell.
“His intensity, that he brings to training, that he brings to meetings, that he brings to any conversation, I think it’s inspiring for players to see how much it still means to him.
“I think the biggest thing from my time playing with him, and since I’ve been in here [as coach], is the amount of responsibility he’s willing to take.
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“I think teams that have players that can do that, whether they are defensive captains, whether they are lineout callers, breakdown specialists, guys like Johnny, who plays out-half and probably touches the ball the second most times after the [scrum-half], guys that are willing to take responsibility for the performance of the team are invaluable.
“It’s a big lesson for other players to watch him in action.
“He does get cranky at times, but I think he’s great value for any team and the longer he can stay playing the better for the development of other out-halves and the better it is for Ireland and Leinster.” 
Sexton was voted World Player of the Year in 2018 and has toured twice with the British and Irish Lions. Last month he dropped a hint that reaching a fourth World Cup, in France in 2023, might be beyond him, but his former team-mate insists the hunger to perform at the highest level remains.
“He’s in a good place,” said the double Heineken Cup winner with Munster. “He’s been unlucky with injury in recent times and that’s the challenge, I suppose, as you get older.
“The hunger is there, the hunger is massively there. 
“I enjoy talking to him about training and preparation and how he’s trying to figure out ways to look after his body. He’s incredibly diligent in that regard.” 
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