Tuesday 25 June 2019

Sexton: We need to seize rare opportunity

Jonathan Sexton of Ireland is tackled by Pete Horne of Scotland. Photo: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton of Ireland is tackled by Pete Horne of Scotland. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

When Ireland were winning their 2009 Grand Slam in Cardiff, coach Declan Kidney was, as you would expect, very good at being inclusive.

And of course he would have known that only those centrally involved would take real satisfaction from the effort.

Johnny Sexton was holding Ronan O'Gara's coat at the time. So now that he is box office, and has been for years, winning a Grand Slam title is a huge deal for him. "Yeah, look you'd be lying if you said otherwise," he said last night. "As Declan Kidney said, I was just as much a part of it as everyone else back in 2009 when I was in the bibs. I definitely didn't feel that way.

"But I remember some of the talks that were made around those times, the O'Connells, the O'Driscolls, the O'Garas, who were trying to achieve this for 10 years. You could tell by their speeches and by their actions that season how much it meant to them, and they had to drag along guys like Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney, these young guys coming through.

"It's very similar to that now, I know Rory (Best) is desperate for a Grand Slam because he thinks he'll be a bigger part of it than he played back then. For us, it's about trying to drag those young guys along. They probably think they're going to get lot of opportunities, but as I know it doesn't work out like that.

"I remember playing Scotland in Croke Park for a Triple Crown and almost taking it for granted because I thought, 'A Triple Crown, I'll have plenty of more opportunities for this', and I still haven't won a Triple Crown. You've got to take these opportunities with both hands when they come."

That would have been England's mantra last season, only to come unstuck in Dublin. So the defeat in Paris will be squared away when Ireland arrive in Twickenham. "Look I'm sure, same as us, every time you pull on an international jersey at home in front of the Irish people, your family, your friends, you don't need any more motivation," Sexton says. "I think that's all the motivation you need. That was all our motivation last year, we definitely didn't want to lose at home and definitely didn't want to lose in front of those people I just spoke about."

If Schmidt's injury assessment holds true then at least he'll be able to deal from the same deck of 23 for Twickenham.

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