Tuesday 16 January 2018

Joe Schmidt has high praise for "inspirational" Johnny Sexton

Ireland's Johnny Sexton scores his side's third try of the game during the Rugby World Cup match at The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
Ireland's Johnny Sexton scores his side's third try of the game during the Rugby World Cup match at The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

Cian Tracey at the Millennium Stadium

He was only on the pitch for 56 minutes but it was long enough for Johnny Sexton to announce his arrival at the World Cup.

By his own high standards, the mercurial out-half had a quiet summer and granted it was against a poor Canadian side but Sexton’s classy display served as a taste for what is to come, later in the tournament.

His 14-point haul took him beyond the 500-point barrier but it was his general all round play that impressed most.

Sexton oozes class and when he’s on form, his confidence is radiated on to those around him and so it showed this afternoon at the Millennium Stadium.

Tougher challenges unquestionably lie ahead but this was a positive start that has left plenty of room for improvement.

“I felt he played really well today," Schmidt said of Sexton’s display.

“I think he played 55 minutes to get man-of-the-match, so he’s probably reasonably happy with that. I think he passed 500 points in international rugby, which is a real milestone for him.

“It’s hugely deserved for the amount of effort he puts in to make sure he’s prepared.’

“He’ll reflect on the game and the first wide pass he made which looped into touch. It was the perfect opportunity, it was the right decision but he didn’t quite effect it accurately enough.

“So, he’ll probably chastise himself for that in amongst about 30 other really positive involvements. That’s the way he’s driven and I think that’s the way he drives the team which is a real bonus as well.”

Schmidt is likely to make plenty of changes for next Sunday’s meeting with Romania but the Ireland coach has plenty of options available to him after reporting a clean bill of health following today’s win.

Cian Healy made a welcome return from injury while Luke Fitzgerald performance an inside centre was hugely impressive.

“I don’t think too much has changed our thoughts because I think we got through unscathed,” Schmidt accessed.

“Some guys will go out, some guys will come in and that was probably always our intention to utilise, probably not the full breadth, but a fair bit of the breadth of the squad, in those first two matches.

“There’s some guys who haven’t had a lot of game time, there’s Cian Healy. But there’s a few other guys who could do with a bit more game time through these first two games.

“I mean the ideal would be that they all get a big of game time to be prepared for the back end of the pool but, at the same time, I think we’ve got to be conscious that every match is going to be tough,” he added.

For now at least, the Irish players will put their feet up this evening and watch their Pool D rivals France and Italy go toe to toe.

“I’d say a lot of the boys will watch it but I know some won’t,” captain Paul O’Connell said.

“We plan to watch the All Ireland final tomorrow, that’s the big one for a lot of the lads.

“A lot of the squad sat down last night and enjoyed the England v Fiji game and I’d say a lot of the boys will sit down this evening in the team room and watch it.”

Job done, onto the next one.

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