Debutant Craig Casey has similar mentality to Jonny Wilkinson – Johnny Sexton

Ed Elliot, PA

Ireland debutant Craig Casey possesses a similar mentality to influential England great Jonny Wilkinson, according to his national team captain Johnny Sexton.

Munster scrum-half Casey produced a lively cameo from the bench after coming on for the final 17 minutes of Saturday’s 48-10 Guinness Six Nations success away to Italy.

The 21-year-old, who entered the Stadio Olimpico field at the same time as fellow new-cap Ryan Baird, has been backed for a bright future by Sexton, who likened his inspiring new team-mate’s dedication to that of World Cup-winner Wilkinson.

Jonny Wilkinson kicked England to victory in the 2003 World Cup final
Jonny Wilkinson kicked England to victory in the 2003 World Cup final (David Davies/PA)

“Craig Casey, I didn’t know him that well – I have never played with – but his attitude, I don’t think I have ever come across anyone (like him),” said experienced fly-half Sexton, who kicked 18 points in Rome.

“It kind of reminds me of what I read about Jonny Wilkinson really – that’s the only person I can relate it to.

“And it’s inspiring for the rest of the group, for someone like me even at this stage of my career.

“I like to be last off the pitch and I am never last off the pitch now with him around.

“He’s been brilliant; and Ryan was outstanding when he came on, he’s got that energy and is an incredible athlete.

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“The future is bright with those two leading the charge.”

Casey was forced to wait for an opportunity at international level after being an unused replacement for the defeat to France a fortnight ago.

With first-choice number nine Conor Murray still sidelined by a hamstring injury, he came on for Jamison Gibson-Park in the Italian capital and set up a try for James Lowe, only for his pass to be deemed forward.

Casey was understandably flattered by the comparison to Wilkinson and is targeting regular Test action.

“He said this to me a few weeks ago, I think it’s to do with obsessiveness with rugby,” Casey said of Sexton’s comments.

Craig Casey (second left) in action for Ireland
Casey (second left) was understandably flattered by the comparison to Wilkinson (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

“Being compared to Jonny Wilkinson – I will definitely take that.”

Asked about his ambitions, he added: “Of course I want to be playing games for Ireland, that’s definitely the goal.

“I don’t want to sit back and be happy with being third choice, not at all.

“I want to push on now but when you’ve got players of Murray’s calibre and Jamison’s calibre it’s awfully tough to break in but I am definitely not going to be sitting back.”