Horrible history in Paris not an issue for Johnny Sexton

‘I think we’re full of confidence, we think that we can go there and do the job’

Johnny Sexton scores his second try against Italy last weekend. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Johnny Sexton scores his second try against Italy last weekend. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 18:24

Joe Schmidt can spearhead a Six Nations title drive against France to “eclipse” Ireland’s only win in Paris for 42 years, according to Johnny Sexton.

Sexton today hailed boss Schmidt as “the best coach around” and is confident the New Zealander can inspire Ireland’s first win in France since 2000.

Brian O’Driscoll’s stunning hat-trick from that 27-25 still resonates, with Ireland unable to repeat that winning feat for a generation.

The 35-year-old centre will make his 141st and final test appearance at the Stade de France on Saturday, with Ireland in pole position to claim the Six Nations title should they subdue their hosts.

Racing Metro playmaker Sexton believes an Ireland win would surpass the achievements of O’Driscoll and captain Keith Wood’s 2000 vintage, a first Six Nations title since 2009 adding extra weight.

“I think we’ve got the best coach around; I think we’re going to go in with a game plan that everyone trusts,” said Sexton.

“I think we’re full of confidence, we think that we can go there and do the job.

“We don’t get too bogged down in ‘we haven’t won there for this long, we haven’t done this or that, so on’.

“We’ll be very much focused on how we’ll beat them with our attacking moves, with the defence we use on the day.

“The history will be talked about by everyone else, and I think it’s better like that for us.”

Relishing the challenge of facing the French in the city he now calls home, Sexton said Schmidt knows how to alleviate big-game pressure.

Sexton won two Heineken Cups, a Pro12 title and the Challenge Cup under Schmidt’s Leinster stewardship.

Now the 28-year-old is confident Schmidt can deliver again.

“Sometimes when you go into finals, you get so worried about the result that you lose track of what got you there in the first place,” said Sexton.

“It will be very much performance-driven.

“From having worked with all the coaches here before, especially with Joe, having played European finals and Rabo finals, it’ll be very much focused on the performance.

“Even though it’s a winner-takes-all, it’s very much the same as usual.

“It just shows how difficult it is to go and win there; that’s all it shows us.

“It means if we go and win, we’ll have earned it and it’ll be something to remember.

“We’ve a chance to go and make history now. It would eclipse what they did in 2000, because there’s a trophy on the line.

“We have to be wary of this French team,” said Sexton, aware that France can still claim the Six Nations crown for themselves.

“We just had a look at their player profiles, their individuals, and it’s pretty impressive, no matter what position you look in.

“We don’t know what team they’re going to pick, but they’re going to be very dangerous.

“I don’t think they’d be delighted with the way they’ve performed, but at the end of the day they’re coming into a cup final this weekend.

“They’ve a championship to play for, the same as us.

“They haven’t set the world alight like we know they can, but we have to be ready for the chance that they do it this weekend.

“They’ve individuals across the park so you just can’t write them off.”