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Johnny Sexton warns there’s ‘plenty more left’ in Ireland as thoughts turn to World Cup


Johnny Sexton is facing a spell on the sidelines after reinjuring his groin. Image: Sportsfile.

Johnny Sexton is facing a spell on the sidelines after reinjuring his groin. Image: Sportsfile.

Johnny Sexton is facing a spell on the sidelines after reinjuring his groin. Image: Sportsfile.

Johnny Sexton insisted that there is more to come from the squad he led to Grand Slam glory but despite Bundee Aki encouraging him to remain on for “one more year”, the out-half refused to engage in any discussion beyond this year’s World Cup.

Instead, he will remain entirely focused on winning it.

Sexton, who may have sustained a re-occurrence of his recent groin issues, may need another lay-off from provincial duties as he admitted his injury outlook was “not great”.

However, while his availability for Leinster’s double trophy tilt hangs in the balance for now, his sights are firmly set on guiding the Irish squad towards further success in France next autumn.

Sexton may have spent some of the closing minutes on his back after retiring hurt, but he had leaped in the air following the conversion of Ireland’s third try, which ensured his side had an unassailable three-score lead in the final quarter.

And it had been the captain who dragged his side out of their inertia, a stunning cross-field kick creating the field position for the try from Robbie Henshaw, which broke the back of fierce 14-man English resistance.

Moments after that 61st-minute score, which put his side 17-9 ahead after being 6-0 down in a suffocating, stuttering first-half, he helped win a turnover with a choke tackle near his own line.

Cometh the hour and all that.

Little wonder he then effected that giant leap, and raised his hands aloft when converting the third try from Dan Sheehan.

“I didn't do a dance, did I? I jumped in the air,” said Sexton as coach Andy Farrell joked that it was “embarrassing”.

“I definitely didn't. I'm not a dancer, I can confirm that.

“I knew it was a big kick to go three scores clear and that's why you do all the practice that you do. I'm absolutely delighted so yeah I didn't do a dance.

“Then when Jamie George scored, I was lying on my back. I knew the lads would bring it home.

“We have enough experience in the team to go through tough moments and James Ryan would have gathered the troops then and given the right messages I'm sure, but the lads saw it out well and getting another try was fantastic.”

The Dubliner now follows Karl Mullen (1948), Brian O’Driscoll (2009) and Rory Best (2018) as Irishman to have led their country to a clean sweep.

“These moments don’t happen often,” said Sexton, who hobbled bare-footed, but buoyant, from his trophy-winning podium to the media dais beneath the stadium bowels.

“This is the fourth time ever which shows how hard it is. Literally why it is so hard is that every game you play for your country means so much. So for England coming here today, it means so much to them to come here and spoil the party but also to win for themselves.

“They put everything into that. And it’s the same every single game. You have to turn up five weeks in a row. And I think we did. I think we were on it today, we just made some silly errors at some crucial times. It made things difficult.

“But yeah, we won a Grand Slam. It’s pinch yourself stuff. You couldn’t make it up really. It is the stuff of dreams.

“And growing up, all you want to do is play for Ireland. I don’t know why but when I was growing up, I always wanted to captain Ireland. And Andy Farrell asked me to do it.

“That was probably one of the best days of my life when he did and this day is even better. They’re a great group, great management team and a great bunch of players.

“And I said in the dressing-room there, this is not the end. There’s plenty more left in this team.”

However, Sexton refused to bow to any immediate pressure to reconsider his imminent international retirement following his final Six Nations championship game, during which he confirmed his position as Ireland’s leading points scorer in the competition.

“No, it’s not the time,” said the 37-year-old.

“Today was about us as a team. When you set out to achieve something in the campaign and manage to do that, it’s a very special feeling in that dressing-room.

“And for the moment, let’s enjoy the next 48 hours. It’s a special group and a special team.”

Sexton paid particular tribute to Farrell, alluding to the low point of his petulant reaction when substituted during a defeat to France three years ago.

Given his advancing age and propensity for recurring injury, many might have doubted his capability of not merely surviving this long, but succeeding too.

"The best thing about him is he hasn't changed one bit from going from assistant to head coach. He's still very popular, even with the lads he doesn't pick!

"We’ve been able to bounce back after, how do I put this, after I let myself down when I was taken off against France. That was probably the low point, a real low point for me.

"And this is a high point but I hope it's not the highest point.

"He's a very special coach; when you've him, Paul O'Connell, Simon Easterby, Catty (Mike Catt) and John Fogarty motivating you during the week it's a pretty special dressing-room to be part of.

"All credit to him, really, for putting it together.”

Sexton departed the fray, accompanied by a standing ovation, but also asking medic Ciaran Cosgrave how long his troublesome groin might take to heal.

His reaction to the doctor’s answer was probably unprintable; he will hope the next 48 hours might offer brighter clarity.

“I was blown away by the crowd today but at the time I was asking the doc how long would it be for this, how long would it be for that? I didn't get a chance to fully take it in.

I don't know, it doesn't feel great at the moment, I suppose I deserve it for trying to get involved in a maul, it's not where I should be.

“I thought I would be able to hold it up a little bit but it came down, doesn't feel too good at the moment.”

The warm glow of achievement, amongst friends and family, will help soothe the pain.

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