Wednesday 19 December 2018

'It doesn't need to be part of the game' - Joe Schmidt on illegal targeting of Johnny Sexton

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and Jonathan Sexton
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and Jonathan Sexton

Des Berry

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has emphasised how illegal targeting of Jonathan Sexton "doesn't need to be part of the game".

He expressed confidence that France coach Jacques Brunel has always been a coach of teams who play to the spirit of the game.

James Ryan, Bundee Aki and Jacob Stockdale will make their Six Nations debuts at Stade de France on Saturday.

Leinster lock Ryan, 21, persuaded Schmidt he was ready from his Champions Cup form, especially in his most recent performance at The Altrad Stadium.

The coach admitted how there is an element of finding out about what exactly Ryan can do now with an eye on what he will be at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

"We felt he went really well against Montpellier and we are looking forward to seeing what he will deliver."

There is also confidence that 27 years old Aki, who has played in many big games, and Stockdale, 21, will benefit from the experience around them. 

"They are really excited about getting that opportunity," he said, about the two three-quarters.

"I don't think there is no better place to be than in between Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw. 

"And having Keith (Earls) and Rob (Kearney) working with him in the back three triangle is a great position for Jacob to be in as well."

This all means Devin Toner and the rejuvenated Fergus McFadden settle for places on the bench.  

Cian Healy has held off the claims of Jack McGrath at loose-head and Josh van der Flier has done likewise against Dan Leavy on the openside.

Luke McGrath has made the significant move of beating out Kieran Marmion as back-up scrum-half to Conor Murray.

Ireland: R Kearney; K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong, I Henderson, James Ryan, P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, John Ryan, D Toner, D Leavy; L McGrath, J Carbery, F McFadden. 

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