We often hear how Irish outside half Johnny Sexton plays less games than his compatriots, but is it entirely true?
If we look at the appearances of World Rugby player of the year nominees; the players at the very pinnacle of their game – minus Tadhg Furlong #JusticeForTadhg #PropGate – it paints a very different picture indeed.
Below are the total number of games played since the 1st January 2018 to date (23rd November 2018).
Appearances for 2018
Faf De Klerk
Sexton has played 4/5 games less this calendar year. Not a lot in terms of a full season. Even that doesn’t paint the full picture though.
Three of the players will play one more game in 2018. Marx, Barrett and Ioane will play their last games of 2018 this weekend against Wales and Italy respectively. While Sexton and De Klerk will enjoy a much earned rest. However, whilst Super Rugby ended in August, the northern hemisphere season continues.
It’s not known whether Sale Sharks will play scrum half Faf this weekend against Northampton – but given the Premiership’s attitude toward player welfare it's likely they will – but Sexton definitely won’t appear for Leinster against the Ospreys.
However, you can, at very least, expect Sexton to play in Leinster’s two Champions Cup pool games in December against Bath and the derby game against Munster at Thomond Park over the Christmas period.
Even if Sexton doesn’t turn out against Dragons at Rodney Parade – which I would suggest he probably won’t – or against Connacht at the RDS – which he very much could – that would still mean that Sexton would have played just two less games than Beauden Barrett and one less than Malcolm Marx and Reiko Ioane in the calendar year.
Perhaps more surprisingly, it would mean that the “protected” half back would have played the same number of club games as All Blacks try machine Reiko Ioane and just one less than Beauden “See I Told You I Could Drop Kick” Barrett and, the most beautiful hooker since Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Malcolm Marx.
Faf De Klerk, meanwhile, will continued to be flogged and fought over until his flowing mane of blonde locks become a matted, sweaty mess and premature baldness takes hold.
So, there we have it. Jonny Sexton plays just as many games – even at club level – as his counterparts. However, there is no evidence to suggest he isn’t a slightly overacting, penalty milking, over protected by referees, whinger.
Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry