Six Nations: Johnny Sexton fit for Ireland’s clash with Wales

Outhalf fully aware that Ireland go into Cardiff clash as the slight underdogs

The fretting can be abated for the time being anyway. Johnny Sexton has declared himself fit and ready for Ireland's 2021 Guinness Six Nations opening game against Wales in Cardiff on Sunday.

“I trained fully today with the group, thankfully, and got through that okay so all available for selection,” said the Irish captain.

“The group trained well today, the lads had a good hit-out at the weekend and we’re looking forward to this weekend.

“It only feels like yesterday since we were finishing up the Autumn Nations Cup and a disappointing end to the last Six Nations campaign for us. In many ways, it has been good - we’ve hit the ground running, it doesn’t feel like we’ve gone backwards. We’ve taken up where we left off in the last campaign, which is great.”


Embarking upon his 12th championship campaign, Sexton knows as well as anyone the importance of winning on the opening weekend, and hence batted away any question about bridging the gap with last year’s top two, England and France.

“We don’t play France for two weeks, we play Wales this week, and all our focus is on that and making sure we get the campaign off to a good start.”

Given Ireland have lost on their last three visits to the Principality Stadium, he is even less inclined to look beyond this weekend.

“It’s a tough place to go. All Welsh teams are tough to play against at all times but especially in Cardiff. There’s not many teams that go there and get a win, we haven’t done it in a long time.

“The last time we won there (in 2013), after the first game we ended up having an injury crisis and we came second last so it wasn’t a great campaign even though we got it off to a good start, so hopefully we can start this weekend in the same fashion and then keep things going.

“We honestly haven’t spoken a day past Sunday or thought of a day past Sunday. Everything has been geared up towards this Wales game and we know how important it is to build a bit of momentum in this tournament.

“The way we can start that is by putting out a good performance, first and foremost, and hoping the result takes care of itself if we can play really, really well. We’re going to have to if we want to beat a Welsh team away from home.”

While an empty Principalty Stadium might dilute home advantage, Sexton cited that example of 2013 as an example of a partisan crowd adding to the pressure on a home side.

“Cardiff is traditionally one of the best places to go and we wish we did have 80,000 crazy Welsh people in there shouting because it creates a great, special atmosphere and a very special game. We’ll miss them but we haven’t spoken about it being a leveller.”

His recent experiences in Cardiff certainly dispelled any notion in his mind that Ireland are hot favourties, and the bookies don’t disagree, making Wales one to three point underdgos.

“Every international is tough, you know what I mean, and Wales have made it clear that I think Ireland are up on their list of most disliked teams. I don’t know if that’s current or if it’s past but that’s been out there.

“Look, again, we don’t really think about these types of things,” added Sexton in reference to any favourite’s tag.

“We’ve had some tough encounters with Wales over. The last time we were in Cardiff we got hockeyed. It was a particularly dark day. They ended up winning the Grand Slam that day so that was only a couple of years ago.

“That’s the same team with the majority of the same players so we know that any team can have a bad campaign at any stage or a bad game and ultimately you can turn it around pretty quick.

“We’re expecting a top-quality Welsh team. When you look at the players they have through their ranks, look at Alun Wyn up front, you look at their half-backs, with Biggar, the amount of caps that he’s got, Gareth Davies, Jon Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, they are littered with caps.

“They have so much experience and they’ve had highs and lows like any international player has and I’m sure they’ll be in good stead come Sunday as well so it’s all systems go now.”