Johnny Sexton drop goal ‘comes down to a hell of a lot of hard work’
Skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy says Jordan Larmour may play against Italy
Ireland’s Johnny Sexton scores the winning drop goal at the Stade de France. Photograph: PA
Richie Murphy knew the instant the ball left Johnny Sexton’s right foot at the Stade de France on Saturday night that the drop goal had both distance and accuracy.
He’d commandeered a decent vantage point, as he pointed out: “I was actually halfway out in the middle of the pitch looking at it. The minute he hit it I knew it was over,” before adding with a smile, “no I wasn’t in the pile on.”
The Ireland skills and kicking coach has known Sexton for over a decade, working with the outhalf first at Leinster and then at Ireland. “I think the drop goal comes down to a hell of a lot of hard work that was done outside of that game.
“I have known Johnny a very long time, 12 years maybe, and I can think of, definitely over the last eight years, hundreds of drop goals being hit after practice. I don’t think any outhalf will shy away from the opportunity to drop one of them but it takes a bit to do it in a situation like that.
“For young kids who are out there you have to make sure you do your extras. Team training is one thing but the skills that are worked on outside the team (environment); some of those high balls, your kicking game, you passing game, your clean-out, they are all massive parts that you have to be able to do in order to be able to get the team collective right.
“It was an incredible moment. I lost the rag on the sideline . . . very satisfying. The manner in which we finished the game was massively strong. It will give us a massive boost coming into this week (but) we have to park that now and look forward.”
He rejected the notion that Sexton might be rested on the basis of the wear and tear from Paris. “I would think that Johnny wants to play every game. I think that every player in that (team) room down there wants to play every game.
“I don’t think it is a case of wrapping him in cotton wool, I don’t think he needs that. He’s recovered really well from the game and is in good form this morning. He’s ready to go training and ready to play the match at the weekend. He’s fine not a bother on him.”
There is an opportunity to make changes and we have such a strong squad
Ireland’s training plans on Tuesday were disrupted slightly by the overnight snow, switching the pitch session from the morning to the afternoon with the possibility of leaving their Carton House base to travel the short distance to the 3G pitch in the National University Ireland, Maynooth.
Murphy explained: “We knew from last (Monday) night there would be a doubt about training so we had two plans going into today. This (Tuesday) morning at about 8.30am, we decided to flip the day to make things easier. Guys went to the gym this morning and we will train this afternoon. It’s not a massive deal. The pitch was covered and we wanted to give them a little bit of extra time to get the pitch ready.” If there’s still an issue they’ll go to Maynooth.
One or two players may sit out part of the session but the only one not available for selection is the unfortunate Josh van der Flier. There are likely to be changes when Ireland coach Joe Schmidt announces the team on Thursday lunchtime. Murphy explained: “Every Six Nations game is one you have to win so it is a little bit different than November. There is an opportunity to make changes and we have such a strong squad that we feel comfortable and confident with the other guys in there.”
One of those is Leinster’s Jordan Larmour. “He is very close to being ready. He has come in over the last couple of weeks and done very well. He’s learning very quickly. It is just a matter of whether it is right this week or not and that will come down to the selection process but we are not looking at him and saying ‘he’s not ready.’
“Most of the guys who got their first caps in November and played at the weekend see a massive difference in the physicality of the game.” Murphy confirmed that Joey Carbery is running at 10, or at least alternating with Sexton in training, and in an Ireland context that is the position they want him to play. The injury and lack of game time in that position this season is not an issue for the Irish management.
Murphy was impressed with Italy’s back play in their defeat to England. “They have created a really good backline. They have two physical carriers in the centre who are getting them good gain-lines and getting them in behind. (Matteo) Mizzoni and Mattia Bellini at fullback and on the wing are a real threat. They have added some new dimensions to their game.
“I thought they caused England a hell of a lot of problems early on and it was only after their disallowed try when England went down the other end and got a try that it broke the game. They’ll pose certain questions; we are not quite certain what team they will send over.
“From our end we will be concentrating on ourselves and try and find different things in their systems rather than in their individuals that we try and expose.”