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Grand Slam-winner Laura Guest backs Jack Crowley to keep spot as Sexton’s back-up

October 2nd, 2023 1:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Grand Slam-winner Laura Guest backs Jack Crowley to keep spot as Sexton’s back-up Image
Innishannon man Jack Crowley is set to start against France on Friday in the Six Nations

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LAURA Guest knows a thing or two about rugby. As a former Munster women’s head coach who played in three Rugby World Cups for Ireland, the Clonakilty woman has a better insight into the game than most. So when she says Jack Crowley should get the nod to be Johnny Sexton’s back-up for Ireland’s final Rugby World Cup pool game against Scotland, it’s worth hearing her out.

Putting her West Cork and Munster rugby links to one side, Guest feels local star Crowley, who came up through the ranks at Bandon RFC, is a better option than Ross Byrne.

So far, Crowley has featured against Romania and South Africa, with Byrne favoured for the win against Tonga, but it’s knock-out rugby from here on, with Scotland up next on October 7th. Head coach Andy Farrell has a decision to make.

‘I think Jack has played really well when he has come on and done what he is supposed to do,’ Guest tells this week’s Star Sport Podcast.

‘You read different bits and pieces, that if Sexton starts then Jack Crowley will be on the bench because he is the better impact player and is a little different to Ross Byrne, but it’s not necessarily clear-cut if Sexton doesn’t start as to which of Crowley or Byrne would start.

‘Jack Crowley is the future and I would love to see him start, if Sexton wasn’t to start.

‘He is an exciting player, a gutsy player, he brings something that is a little bit different. Ross Byrne has been tried and tested and we know we have safe hands with him, but he doesn’t attack the gain line and he sits a bit deeper, maybe for even the back line’s liking.

‘Maybe as a progressive Ireland we need to see that youth and that attacking flair, but as we move further down the track the hope is Jack Crowley remains the back-up ten on the bench. His ability to play in midfield, because he has played ten, 12 and 15, that maybe pushes him that bit ahead of Ross Byrne.’

Guest is the greatest women’s rugby player West Cork has produced; her CV is stacked. Think of her role in Ireland’s first-ever women’s Grand Slam in 2013. Thirty-six caps for Ireland. Winning interpros with Munster as a player and head coach. She was also the first West Cork rugby player – male or female – to play in a Rugby World Cup. Now Innishannon man Jack Crowley is the first West Cork man to achieve that feat – and it’s another notable moment for rugby in the region.

‘Both male and female rugby in West Cork is in a great place,’ Guest says.

‘John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes, the Wycherley brothers, they are all doing their bit too. I still think Gavin was unlucky he wasn’t given his chance in the warm-up matches before the World Cup before he was sent back to Munster, but it is amazing to see our first West Cork man in a Rugby World Cup squad. Hopefully the first of many.’

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