Six Nations: Ireland's Johnny Sexton must improve - Tony Ward

Ireland coach Andy Farrell and captain Johnny Sexton
New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell chose Johnny Sexton to succeed Rory Best as capatin
Six Nations Championship
Dates: 1 February-14 March
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Former fly-half Tony Ward believes new Ireland captain Johnny Sexton must be better at adapting during games and improve his demeanour on the field.

Sexton, 34, was named captain for the Six Nations by new coach Andy Farrell.

"I do have concerns over Johnny's temperament on the field. I think he has to question his own personality and how he adapts in games," said Ward.

"I would go with Sexton for now but he has to prove himself suitable for that position over the next few weeks."

Sexton, who has previously captained Leinster, will skipper Ireland in Saturday's Six Nations opener against Scotland in Dublin.

"I've questioned Johnny as captain of Leinster. To me a captain has to be a 'go to' player on the field," added Ward on BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound programme.

"When things aren't going well for you there needs to be somebody you can turn to and give you a little boost of confidence.

"Johnny's demeanour in the past hasn't leant itself to that type of relationship with his fellow players.

"That's where I think he has to be a positive influence on the squad, beginning against the Scots. Captaincy is still about out there on the pitch and also important is the relationship you build with match officials.

"I think in James Ryan Ireland have a captain-in-waiting but he should continue to learn. I've no doubt Ryan will take over in a year or two."

'More adventurous in selection'

Ward says the appointment of Farrell to succeed Joe Schmidt as head coach provides the opportunity for "a level of change, as well as an element of continuity".

"What excites me is we are going along to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and we don't know what to expect," added the 19-times capped back.

"I've been a believer that an Irish rugby team has to be picked in the here and now and I'd like to see a few changes for next week's team against the Scots.

"Where there is a balance to be struck between in-form players, young players and tried-and-trusted players who there is a question mark over, I think we've got to be a little more adventurous in our selection.

"I'm fascinated by what changes Mike Catt is going to make coming in as attacking coach as he played a very adventurous style of rugby himself.

"I'm hoping that's the philosophy he'll bring to Ireland - but how measured will that be?"

Conor Murray and John Cooney
Conor Murray (left) is under pressure from John Cooney for the number nine shirt

Murray or Cooney at number nine?

Ward has been impressed with the form of Ulster scrum-half John Cooney this season and while he would select the ex-Connacht number nine he believes Farrell will opt for continuity in the form of Munster's Conor Murray.

"For me the bottom line is always current form and watching Cooney over the early part of the season he has been absolutely outstanding.

"Murray had a particularly good game for Munster in their last Champions Cup game, albeit against an Ospreys team with nothing to play for.

"The obvious argument might be for Murray and Sexton to continue playing together but I would like to see a few changes and I do think form should be acknowledged.

"I would bring Cooney in at nine but I don't think Farrell will. I suspect he may stay with the tried-and-trusted combination."

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