The Offload: Dan Sheehan to kick on after milestone of his own

Sexton marks the occasion with the boots to match; Healy and Crowley clash in AIL

Johnny Sexton’s boots bearing the initials of his wife and children. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Johnny Sexton’s boots bearing the initials of his wife and children. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

On a day of milestones, Johnny Sexton’s 100th cap, Tadhg Furlong’s 50th, replacement hooker Dan Sheehan was given the opportunity to describe what it felt like to make his debut and become the 1,134th player to be capped by Ireland.

The 23-year-old was an underage international but his progress from the Ireland Under-20 team (2018) to now was measured, incorporating years playing in the All Ireland League for Trinity and then Lansdowne before making his first Leinster appearance just over a year ago.

He said: “You are always aiming to make the international stage. It goes slow for a few years and then it happens really quickly. It’s been an emotional week, kind of trying to calm down and block out the noise and focus on the game. (I) soaked it all in and enjoyed every single minute of it.

“(It was) a brilliant atmosphere out there, probably my first time playing in front of a large crowd so everything about it was absolutely amazing. I spent a lot of time over the years thinking of that moment, just the noise of the Aviva, it was hard to stay calm. I took a second to make sure I was enjoying every second of it, looking up to my mum and dad in the crowd and my family. It was special, an unbelievable day for me.”

Displaying the tenacity that he shows on a pitch, Sheehan explained that his immediate priority - outside of going through Spotify to select a song to sing in the time honoured tradition of debutants - is to ensure that he is involved against New Zealand next Saturday.

“You get a bit of a taste of international rugby. I can see why it’s quite addictive. It’s an incredible honour every single time, can’t wait to get stuck back in. I accept that I am slightly behind in experience but I’m not going to sit there and accept that it’s the deal; I’ve always backed myself.

“Each week we go in there and battle it out. It’s a healthy working environment but everyone wants to start and everyone is pushing towards a start, especially a big game like New Zealand. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m involved.”

Dominant Defence

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell made a point after the match of singling out Ireland’s defence as the aspect of the performance that pleased him most. He explained: “By a country mile the best part of our performance today was our defence.

“We didn’t have to do much of it and that is what we wanted but we got the ball back very quickly because we were ready on turnovers. They are lethal, Japan, on turnover ball; that’s what they pride themselves on, that and counter attacking. We all know how dangerous they have been.”

His assertion was borne out by the statistics particularly in the first half in which Ireland were utterly dominant. On a diet of 78 percent possession and 67 percent territory, Ireland led 29-0 at the interval having scored four tries. But the metric that makes Farrell’s point is 26 tackles, missing none - they would make 65 and miss 11 in the second half as Japan got a bit more ball - while Jamie Joseph’s visitors made 107 in the opening 40 minutes and missed 12.

Ireland made 403 metres in the first half giving up just 42 which is a staggering achievement when considering the manner in which Japan play and how they stressed Australia in a Test match recently, albeit in defeat.

Initials of Love

Johnny Sexton celebrated his 100th cap with a try but he also demonstrated some impressive place-kicking in difficult windy conditions, racking up 11 points; most of the kicks were close to/on the touchlines. The eagle-eyed may have spotted that on his right boot bore the initials L LAS. in honour of his wife Laura and three children Luca, Amy and Sophie.

Clash of the Pretenders

While Sexton was leading Ireland to a resounding victory, 120 miles down the road in Limerick, two young players with aspirations to someday wear the number 10 jersey for Ireland, were involved in a personal duel at Dooradoyle as Ben Healy’s Garryowen took on Jack Crowley’s Cork Constitution; both were playing outhalf.

Healy scored 16 of his side’s points including a fine try while Crowley nabbed 13 with the boot as Con overcame a half-time deficit to snatch a 23-21 over the previously unbeaten Garryowen. Another of the young guns at 10 was slightly closer to the action as Leinster’s Harry Byrne was one of Ireland’s ‘water boys’ at the Aviva stadium.

Quote

“Please Johnny don’t be scared. I will come back when it is quiet, okay? But have a word with your players about repeated infringements next to the try line.” Referee Romain Poite talking to Johnny Sexton during a Six Nations game between Ireland and Scotland. The French official presided over his last Test match at the weekend but will continue to referee in the Top 14 and European tournaments.

Number

3: Andrew Conway’s three tries against Japan was the second time that an Ireland player has managed a hat-trick against the Brave Blossoms following on from Denis Hickie’s feat in the 2000 Test. Ireland won the match 78-9. Trevor Ringland also scored three tries against Japan but the IRFU didn’t award caps for that game in 1985.

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