Jonathan Sexton going all out for silverware
‘Even though they are missing Fofana, they have guys like Fickou and Mermoz where any loose ball and we’ll be under our posts’
Jonathan Sexton ponders a response during yesterday’s press conference at the Irish rugby squad’s training base at Carton House in Co Kildare. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
There’s nothing much wrong with his thumb – well, it’s a sprain – and he can’t give much insight into the French mentality but Jonathan Sexton came before us yesterday with the an honesty we associate with every performance on the field.
“It’ll be strapped for the rest of the season,” he said of thumb. “It will be in this little brace for three weeks. Comes off for the game and a smaller one comes on. So it’s grand.
“In the old days it would be a sprained thumb. Strap it up and off you go. These days with all the scans, specialists things can get lost in translation.
“It’s all good.”
And what of the French mentality? “Still trying to figure it out myself.” Some days he loves Paris, some days – usually when Racing Metro 92 are beaten – he wants away.
“Like any job.”
Sexton and Paul O’Connell were asked the same question in recent days. It concerned the last 10 minutes in Twickenham and what they would do differently if that scenario presented itself again in Paris.
In separate rooms and out of earshot of each other, both men blamed a refereeing non-decision by Craig Joubert that denied Ireland a penalty. O’Connell would’ve mauled one more time but that’s it.
“I think we were pretty happy in that 20-minute period when we went behind, how we tried to fight back. Another day we might have got a penalty to level it up and then it’s game on again.”
Whether you agree or disagree the similarity of their answers is most revealing. This season the Ireland squad have been singing off the same hymn sheet. There has been few if any bum notes (Sexton’s re-start in Twickenham at 10-6 when he aimed to go 11 metres but went “eight metres”.).
They don’t beat themselves up over moments when it didn’t happen for them. Leonardo Sarto’s try – only the second conceded by Ireland in 2014 – Sexton identified as very French in its construction from nothing.
“We gave them a try from initially good defensive pressure. It looked like we were going to force a turnover and then we were underneath our posts.
“That’s the threat we need to stop against France because with the back three they have, even though they are missing probably their best player in (Wesley) Fofana, they have guys like Fickou and Mermoz where any loose ball and we’ll be under our posts.”
Sexton missed two kicks at goal against Italy otherwise producing a stunning performance heightened by a telepathic connection with Brian O’Driscoll and anyone else running a line off him.
For Sexton the weekend represents something he has craved since 2009. Something tangible to show for all the endeavour playing and preparing to play for his country.
“I was very lucky that I was at Leinster in a period when we were in nine finals; we won six. Blessed to be there for that period of time and picked on the Lions more on the back of my Leinster form rather than Ireland form and then achieved success there.
“It is the same for a lot of the boys. There is only three or four guys who have lifted a trophy with Ireland. We are all desperate to go out and do it this weekend.”