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Sexton seeks new chapter

2018 seems long time ago for captain


AWARE: Johnny Sexton knows the task Ireland face

AWARE: Johnny Sexton knows the task Ireland face

AWARE: Johnny Sexton knows the task Ireland face

Johnny Sexton insists he won't be getting distracted by any lingering sense of nostalgia when he returns to the scene of arguably the greatest moment of his career.

Sexton will lead his side out at the Stade de France on Saturday, as Ireland go in search of the Six Nations title, looking to repeat the heroics of 2018 when the out-half landed a last-gasp drop goal to snatch victory.

As the Ireland captain acknowledged, a lot has changed since that unforgettable night in Paris two years ago, but he is relishing the chance to write another chapter of his storied history.

"It does feel like a long, long time ago, but it's great to be back in that situation now where we have a trophy on the line," Sexton said yesterday, via an online press conference.

"It's in our own hands in many ways, no matter what happens in the games before we'll still be going onto the pitch being able to win the trophy, which is what you play for.

"You train hard for these big days and yeah, we're looking forward to it now and like I said, we're just trying to concentrate on our performance and make sure if we can get that right it gives us a chance."

Asked about the challenge of attempting to win with a bonus point away to France, Sexton admitted that Ireland would have to wait and see which way the cards fall.

With England taking on Italy earlier on Saturday, Andy Farrell's men will know exactly what is required for them to be crowned champions.

"Yeah, I suppose we'll just have to wait and see, won't we, but all we can control at the moment is our performance," Sexton maintained.

"So what we're trying to emphasise to everyone in the squad at the moment is that we need to get our performance right, no matter what.

"If it's just a win, if it's a bonus-point win, we're still going to have to play well, no matter what.

"So let's just focus on that aspect and hopefully... we know that if we can perform well then we'll give ourselves chances, and then it's up to us try and take those chances on the day and be clinical."

France are in red-hot form and are favourites to beat Ireland this weekend, but at an empty stadium, they will not have the usual fervour of the home crowd to feed off.

Nevertheless, Les Bleus pose a major threat, as Sexton warned:

"We know it won't be perfect, it never is in Paris because there will be times when they get on top and obviously any time I've played there in the past there have been 80,000 supporters going crazy and we won't have that on Saturday, so I suppose it's a neutral venue as well so that might be in our favour a little bit.

"Their ability to score out of nothing and I suppose that points to the individual flair that they have all over the park.

"At half-backs, you saw against Wales last weekend how it looks like Wales are defending well and then, out of nowhere, they're gone.

"(Virimi) Vakatawa has obviously been in great form and (Gael) Fickou has been doing really well. so from a backs point of view, they've just got threats throughout.

"And up front, they've got power, don't they? It's a big ask and we know that, but we're preparing ourselves for a big performance," Sexton added.

Prop Cian Healy can become Ireland's sixth Test centurion this weekend, leaving Sexton paying tribute to the combative 33-year-old front-rower.

"If Cian gets picked it's an incredible feat; you look at the guys that have 100 caps, you don't get there easily," said Sexton.

"Every player in that category is a legend of the game in Ireland, and he'll add himself to that legacy if he gets that cap.

"And he deserves it."