Saturday 21 July 2018

WATCH: 'You've got to take these opportunities with two hands' - Johnny Sexton prepared to 'drag' young players to Grand Slam glory

Jonathan Sexton of Ireland during a second press conference after the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton of Ireland during a second press conference after the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Jonathan Sexton says he is determined to win a Grand Slam next week in Twickenham to ice the cake of a third Six Nations title in five years under Joe Schmidt.

But he has warned that England will be licking their lips ahead of that clash as they seek revenge for being denied their own slam last season.

“You'd be lying if you said otherwise,” Ireland's Paris drop-goal hero said of his desire to add a Grand Slam to his latest championship crown.

“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 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 are 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.”

Sexton's famous kick in Paris literally kick-started the success.

“France was a very special moment for the team. We will look back on it next week after a Grand Slam hopefully or when we win the trophy.

“It's kind of muted up there yet, it's a strange feeling to win the title with a game to go and still have more to play for.

“I'm sure England will be licking their lips though. Every time you wear the jersey at home, you don't need any motivation in front of your family and your friends.

“That was the way we felt at home last season. I know them personally from Lions trips, they are a proud bunch of people.”

Joe Schmidt paid tribute to the wider squad after a championship which saw Ireland lose a number of players – particularly in midfield through injury – as well as losing two veteran Grand Slam winners through retirement.”

It is a really satisfactory from a squad perspective because a lot of the guys today have won a championship medal for Josh van der Flier and for Robbie Henshaw and for Chris Farrell and even those who weren't on the pitch, behind the scenes who worked so hard.”

Sexton agreed.

“It's credit to the management that we got so many players on the pitch. If you said before that we would lose guys like Rhys Ruddock, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Josh, Robbie and Chris.

“We've built a lot of depth but we know that the biggest challenges are ahead. But it's great building into next year's championship and the World Cup.

“That’s been done over the past couple of years and it’s great that it’s so seamless at times.”

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