Monday 21 April 2014

Sexton insists players have duty to beat Argentina for Kidney

22 November 2012; Ireland's Jonathan Sexton during squad training ahead of their side's Autumn International match against Argentina on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton has urged his team to deliver the right result for their under-fire coaches in tomorrow's must-win World Cup seeding play-off with Argentina at Lansdowne Road.

Ireland are teetering on the brink of expulsion from the top two tiers of seeds ahead of next month's 2015 World Cup draw in London – a result which would prompt a strong public demand for Declan Kidney to be removed as head coach.

Kidney's contract would be unlikely to be renewed beyond next May should Ireland slip outside the top eight in the world rankings.

The IRFU have so far failed to back the coaching set-up publicly but they would come under pressure from forces outside the squad were their team to slip outside the top two seeding tiers.

However, Sexton, who will be the guiding force as the side seek to continue their unbeaten home record against the dangerous Pumas, insists that it is the players who are responsible for delivering the winning performance that will guarantee their coaches' future.

"Yeah, definitely," he responded, when asked whether the players had a duty to reward the coaches' hard work with a victory tomorrow.

"They work incredibly hard. They're obviously under a bit of pressure, as are the players.

"We're all in it together and we've been on a poor run. But they've done everything right by us and we'll try to do that for them on Saturday and get the win that they deserve and that we probably deserve.

"But you don't always get what you deserve and we have to go out and play well and do everything we've prepared for."

Ireland have made one change to the side that lost to South Africa a fortnight ago as they seek to avoid continuing their worst losing run in 14 years, with Ulster wing Craig Gilroy stepping in for his provincial team-mate Andrew Trimble.

Sexton feels that one win could kickstart something special for an Irish side who have had to cope without six of their world-class stars this November.

"It would give us a massive boost because if we get a win here it will be a decent autumn series," said Sexton, who will win his 34th cap tomorrow.

"We obviously would have liked to have won the three games but if we can win this one, it will get us in the second tier in the world rankings.

"Then, touch wood, we'll have five or six world-class players coming back into the squad which will only bode well for the Six Nations, where there will be good competition for places.

"A lot of the younger guys will hopefully have a win under their belt and we can go forward from there."

Kidney's experimentation in these straitened circumstances, albeit forced, will stand to him in any future negotiations with his employers.

One of Ireland's missing stars, Sean O'Brien, makes his long-awaited return from hip surgery for Leinster in a Pro12 clash against Glasgow this evening.

Whether Kidney will still be in charge when O'Brien returns from injury may rest upon one result, but it is clear that the coach still retains the overwhelming support of his players.

"It's an enjoyable camp when you can get to a Sunday and you can look back on a win," said Sexton. "It's been a great camp for the last month, it's been a great place to be.

"But if we don't get a win, obviously, we'll look back on it and it will be a poor return from the autumn internationals.

"Whereas if we get the win we'll look back and say it was a great series except for that 10-minute spell against South Africa, when they got the win out of it."

Ireland have developed an unnerving habit of coughing up positive half-time situations against leading sides – France, New Zealand, Wales and South Africa – and Sexton insists his side must stop the rot.

"We've had a lot of results that have gotten away from us by one score or less. It's tough to take. It could be so different if you turn a few of those results against us in our favour but we are where we are," he said.

"It's disappointing the run of the results we've had but we can't do anything about that now. We can only go forward.

"I thought we should have done it against South Africa with the position we were in at half-time but a 10-minute period after half-time just killed us, when we went down to 14 men and conceded 10 points, and then we were chasing.

"It was tough to take but if we can control our performance on Saturday it can have a different outcome.

"It's partly an individual thing – individual errors. There's a little bit of that. I suppose we've picked up a lot of experiences from those games and hopefully it will see us do things a little bit differently now."

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