Saturday 3 December 2016

Johnny Sexton on French revenge mission: This will be personal

Former Racing star returns to Paris still hurt by 'untrue' criticism

Published 12/02/2016 | 02:30

Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton returns to Paris tomorrow for the first time since leaving Racing Metro admitting that he is still "hurt" by some of personal criticism he received during his two-year stint with the club.

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Prop Eddy Ben Arous has repeated the oft-repeated World Cup threats from the French camp that they will target the Leinster man on the pitch, but it is the off-field attacks that still rankle with the 30-year-old.

"I do think it's a little bit more personal especially some of the stuff that was written about me by certain French journalists," he said, after being passed fit to play as Joe Schmidt made three changes to the side that drew with Wales last Sunday.

"It does hurt when it is not true. I don't mind when people criticise my performance because that is black and white.

"You either play well or you don't and that is part of the job. But when they make up stuff about your personality and portray you as I don't think I am, that can hurt. So that's a little bit more personal.

"It probably came from the coach, who is probably trying to look after himself a little bit. But it is what it is.

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"It's probably some outside noise as well. Look, I have a great relationship with the players in Racing. I've been texting them during the week. I made some great friends over there and have huge respect for them," he told UTV Ireland.

After the bruising draw against Wales last weekend, Schmidt has claimed that this week has been the most disruptive build-up since the World Cup quarter-final clash with Argentina, which ended in humiliating defeat.

Schmidt only had his players available for just over an hour of training time and was forced to delay his team announcement before admitting defeat as both Keith Earls and Simon Zebo failed to prove their fitness.

Sean O'Brien joins fellow Leinster man Rob Kearney, despite a restricted training week, in coming straight into the team after hamstring niggles forced them out of the opening weekend of action.

The third change sees Dave Kearney start on the left wing as Fergus McFadden is drafted on to the bench.

Irish Independent

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