Friday 19 July 2019

Coach hails Sexton insanity and intellect

Jonathan Sexton. Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Jonathan Sexton. Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Nick Purewal

Johnny Sexton's "insanity" to play through any level of pain propelled Ireland to just their third Grand Slam in history, according to Joe Schmidt.

Talisman fly-half Sexton's overtime drop-goal capped a stunning 41-phase move that rescued Ireland a 15-13 victory over France in Paris on the Six Nations' opening weekend.

Sexton then suffered a gluteal muscle injury in Ireland's 37-27 win over Wales in round two, and struggled to kick cleanly at goal and perform unimpeded for the remainder of the tournament.

The 32-year-old gritted his teeth and carried on regardless, however, staying the course long enough to drive Ireland to their clean sweep with Saturday's 24-15 victory over England.

Sexton passed a head injury assessment (HIA) in Ireland's triumph despite copping a bloody nose, leaving Schmidt to hail his midfield general once again.

"He actually felt really good going into the game," said Schmidt, of Sexton's assorted ailments and running repairs.

"Johnny attracts a fair bit of attention, and he's perfectly happy with that. Some of the attention he brings on himself, trying to smash people back when he's standing on the tryline, making sure they don't get over it. That's how he bloodied his nose in the first place.

"Then he was fine, he was totally coherent, but he was starting to fatigue, for sure, just because of the workload, his confrontational tackle ability, his commitment and general insanity.

"He's such a fantastic contributor to the group. And his intellect, he runs such a sharp game. He's just such a good decision-maker."

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