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Vintage Sexton shows he will still have plenty to offer when World Cup rolls around again

Billy Keane


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Ireland's Jonathan Sexton misses a penalty during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton misses a penalty during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Ireland's Jonathan Sexton misses a penalty during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

I don't really get this long-distance obsession with the rugby World Cup.

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We hear Ireland must build for the next one in France. It's like saving the hay in February. I can't see anything wrong with winning a Grand Slam.

The World Cup is a lottery. I wouldn't start looking at the World Cup until the season of the competition. Let's go back to Cardiff five years ago. I think we would have won that one with a bit of luck but nearly all our best players were injured at the same time.

Build by all means but cleverly and incrementally like the Dubs did.

Goal-line poaches from the experienced Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander saved 14 certain points on Saturday. CJ had has best ever game in an Irish jersey.

Jonathan Sexton saved another seven when he tracked back when all the officials missed a trip.

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Ireland's Johnny Sexton scores his side's first try during the Guinness Six Nations win over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton scores his side's first try during the Guinness Six Nations win over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

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Ireland's Johnny Sexton scores his side's first try during the Guinness Six Nations win over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

There seems to be a convention now in rugby and it goes: 'You can hit a player anywhere once you don't touch his head'.

This is similar to Henry VIII's doomed wives saying: "Ah well sure execution is grand once Himself doesn’t decapitate us."

Scotland got away with some cheap shots. They were smarting after two terrible beatings in a row. It was as if William Wallace was first in to every maul.

The Scots can beat anyone on days like this.

We were lucky when Stuart Hogg didn't dive to the touchdown. Maybe his back was at him. Curiously, Jonathan Sexton touched down with one hand for his try.

How proud we all were to see him leading out Ireland in the Aviva.

"What do you want to be when you are big?" I wonder is it too late now to learn how to drive a train? All the small Sexton boy ever wanted was to captain his country. "If you wish upon a star."

Tony Ward, whom I greatly like and respect, went back to days when Sexton's temper got the better of him. Have no worries, Wardy.

He is a pro and a good learner. Those close to Jonathan have told him temper is a luxury, but he will remain fiery.

He got every call right on Saturday. We have a very good captain who has a better understanding of the intricacies of the game than any other player in any other country.

His playing performance was extraordinary for a man who hasn't had a game since November.

There is an overt ageism and profound ignorance of the advances in sports medicine which has become evident in recent times.

Sexton was considered by some to be an old man at 34. When some of us were 34, Mom was still mashing up our Liga.

Stephen Cluxton, still the best in the game is 38, Sexton's age come the next World Cup. The sporting longevity of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a more apt analogy.

Brady has been written off more often than a drunk’s tab. He has suffered concussions and serious injury. Sexton is a big fan. Brady won a Super Bowl at 41.

But now for the shipping forecast.

There are stormy waters ahead next Saturday when Wales come to the Aviva.

For the most part Ireland were very good with ball in attack against Scotland. But we will struggle to beat Wales.

The game is at home, which is a big help, provided the crowd show up on time and cheer loudly.

Wales were excellent at the World Cup and we suffered quite a few injuries against Scotland. Pity poor Caelan Doris, who had to go off after only three minutes of his first cap. The Mayo man will be back. He is one for the present.

Ireland must not give the ball away from kicks. Scotland remained on the front foot for numerous plays when we kicked to them. Our kick-chase could be better.

The referee did penalise blocking by the Scots on two occasions but some of our chases were more like polite asks in excuse me dances.

Ireland were confident of winning the scrums but we were in some trouble against Scotland. It seems unlikely Dave Kilcoyne and Tadhg Furlong will be available for Wales.

There was a time when the loss of two props would finish us off but now, thanks to David Nucifora, we have better strength in depth but these two are big losses.

The Scottish game was full- blooded and tiring. Is that good or bad for Ireland? It's good in that we are up to speed and bad, in that we took a lot of punishment.

Wales didn't have a hard game against Italy. They will be cocky and maybe slightly undercooked.

Last year we were hammered in Cardiff.

But this is Dublin and the most of the massed choir of Welsh singers will have to stay put in the sitting room. There are no better supporters than the Welsh for fun and singing. They love us and we love them.

As for their rugby union, they forsook brotherhood for money in that infamous World Cup bidding process. Lest we forget.

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