France fly-half Romain Ntamack has named Ireland counterpart Johnny Sexton as one of his Test match role models.
Toulouse playmaker Ntamack is at the vanguard of France’s exuberant youth revolution, the 21-year-old encapsulating Les Blues’ thrilling and long-overdue resurgence.
The 16-cap attacking pivot seemingly needs little help plotting France’s new course, but revealed British and Irish Lions star Sexton as one of his major inspirations.
Ireland can claim a fourth Six Nations title in seven years with a bonus-point victory over France in Paris on Saturday, where Ntamack will be relishing the chance to pit his wits against Sexton.
“He is a role model for me and I believe for lots of players,” said Ntamack. “He is world class and maybe the best fly-half of the decade.
“He proves that every weekend either for his province or his country. He is tireless and has enormous experience.”
Sexton’s Test dominance hit new heights in a stellar 2018 where the Leinster star was named World Rugby Player of the Year.
The 35-year-old has no intention of slowing down despite his advancing years, and Ntamack still regards the 93-cap half-back as among the world’s best.
The son of former France wing Emile, Ntamack has always been afforded a close view into the Test arena.
So while he is happy to praise Sexton he knows full well that France must shut him down in Saturday’s Six Nations decider in Paris.
“He may be a role model for me but this weekend it is imperative I do not allow him the freedom to do what he does best,” said Ntamack.
“Above all I cannot stand by watching him and allowing to play, because if I do things will become very difficult for us.”
Ntamack has already forged a formidable half-back pairing with Antoine Dupont for club and country, with the duo doubtless Europe’s emerging creative force.
Ireland’s Conor Murray and Sexton remain the pre-eminent northern hemisphere half-backs for now, and Ntamack is under no illusions as to how to stymie Saturday’s Parisian visitors.
Asked to appraise Murray and Sexton as a pairing, Ntamack replied: “We know them very well; they are Ireland’s key players. Clearly we must pay close attention to them.
“We have focussed on them since the beginning of the week. We know all too well that the whole of Ireland’s game-plan is orchestrated by them and we have to be extremely vigilant.
“Of course Ireland have good players littered throughout their side but we have to pay extra close attention on those two and above all put pressure on them from the start.”