Wallabies v British & Irish Lions - Fly-Halves
Sexton 'one of world's top two fly-halves'
ESPN Staff
May 28, 2013
Leinster fly-half Jonathan Sexton celebrates with the RaboDirect PRO12 trophy. Ulster v Leinster, RaboDirect PRO12, RDS, Dublin, Ireland, May 25, 2013
Jonny Sexton has been kicking goals in recent weeks © PA Photos

The Wallabies underestimate British & Irish Lions fly-half Jonathan Sexton at their peril, despite the overwhelmingly underwhelming impression of the Irishman in Australian rugby circles, Less Kiss says.

Kiss, the former Australian Kangaroos rugby league international player who is Ireland's interim rugby union coach after the departure of Declan Kidney, hailed his Ireland fly-half a likely match-winner for the British & Irish Lions in Australia. Kiss, who masterminded Ireland's defence tactics that strangled Australia at Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, said in an exclusive interview with RuggaMatrix that Sexton was "in the top two fly-halves in the world at the minute".

"He's just in great form," Kiss said of Sexton, who steered Leinster to a 24-18 victory over Irish rivals Ulster to win the RaboDirect PRO12 final in his last start before switching to French Top 14 club Racing Metro. That final victory was achieved just eight days after Sexton and Leinster had defeated Stade Francais to win the Amlin Challenge Cup, and the Irishman joined the Lions camp with a spring in his step after showing he was fully recovered from the foot injury that destroyed his - and Ireland's - Six Nations campaign.

Kiss was speaking after being asked whether he thought Jonny Wilkinson would be called up to the squad, despite quotes to the contrary from Lions coach Warren Gatland, after his heroics for Toulon in the Heineken Cup and French Top 14 play-offs.

Les Kiss talks to Djuro Sen

"You can imagine [Sexton] starting games, and they've got Own Farrell there, who's a superb performer who can play 10 and 12," Kiss said. "But if they wanted someone to come off the bench and finish things in a clinical manner, they could use Jonny Wilkinson.

"My feeling is that [Wilkinson] will be taken away," Kiss said, noting that Toby Flood was also likely on stand-by having been omitted from England's tour squad to Argentina having won the Aviva Premiership with Leicester Tigers. Kiss thought Flood would already have been in the Lions squad if the selectors thought he were good enough, saying of Wilkinson's prospective inclusion "it'd be smart decision" based on his form in the Heineken Cup final and Top 14 play-offs because he "knows how to close out games".

Australia's No.10 position similarly remains a point of conjecture after the non-selection of Quade Cooper in the initial 25-man Wallabies squad to face the Lions, with coach Robbie Deans preferring James O'Connor to handle the playmaking duties.

Kiss believes, however, that Deans will call the Queensland Reds No.10 into the squad when he names six additional players on June 11, saying "a team with Quade Cooper in it is a team to be feared ... and I know [the Lions] will fear that prospect because he is a very spectacular player".

"It's a headache to prepare against Quade Cooper," he told RuggaMatrix. "He is a type of player that most European players, and particularly the home nations, they do find it tough to handle those types of players. The Lions have picked a huge team - they're a fairly big team in terms of their physique - and guys like James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, touch wood everything goes well there and Kurtley gets back, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, those types of players are players that we do find dangerous from a northern-hemisphere perspective."

Listen to Djuro Sen's podcast interview with Les Kiss in full at RuggaMatrix.

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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