Jump to main content



Sexton: There’s Plenty More To Work On

Sexton: There’s Plenty More To Work On

After guiding Ireland to GUINNESS Series wins over Australia and South Africa, out-half Jonathan Sexton feels the squad are now closer to playing the Joe Schmidt way.

Ireland were just getting to used to Joe Schmidt’s coaching systems and direction when they lost to Australia and New Zealand last year, and those reversals could have shaken confidence.

But they stuck to their guns and it has more than paid dividends with Six Nations silverware locked away in the trophy cabinet and the team currently on a seven-match winning streak, which includes this month’s stirring victories over South Africa and the Wallabies. 

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

“The big learning from New Zealand was that last seven minutes, how we could do things differently and it was probably the worst video session you could imagine. We had to relive that seven minutes again and the defensive errors that we made. And we learned from them,” explained Jonathan Sexton, referring to last November’s last-gasp 24-22 loss to the All Blacks.

“We didn’t do the same thing against Australia (on Saturday) when they had us under pressure in those last few minutes. We didn’t make the system errors and we stayed patient and then we got the turnover when we had to.

“From that regard, yeah we’d still like to go back and play that seven minutes against New Zealand again but I’m sure we’ll face them over that World Cup campaign (next year).”

This month’s performances against two southern Hemisphere giants will certainly ramp up expectation levels ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup in England.

Although happy with what they achieved in the 2014 GUINNESS Series, on the back of a successful Six Nations and two-match summer tour of Argentina, Sexton is keen to draw a line under the past year knowing Ireland could have done more performance-wise. 

“Many of us felt we probably left a Grand Slam behind because we had the winning of that match against England in Twickenham and we’re going to have go again in the Six Nations (in the spring) and try and do it all over again. The expectation comes from within the camp. You know, we do realise how much it means to people and the high that it gives the country.

“The expectancy is nice because it means that we’re performing. It puts a bit more pressure on us but we have Joe putting the pressure on us in camp – that’s the only pressure you can worry about.

“And the pressure we put on ourselves, the pressure Paul (O’Connell) puts on us as captain, that’s the pressure that matters and we try to tunnel our vision.”

Sexton was one of four Irish players to receive blows to the head in a very physical encounter with Michael Cheika’s men on Saturday. He, along with fellow backs Gordon D’Arcy, Conor Murray and Rob Kearney, had to be replaced in the closing stages. 

The Dubliner admitted: “It’s not something I’m worried about personally. It’s not like I’m getting knocked out or anything like that or having memory loss. I’ve had one bad concussion in my life, maybe six or seven years ago. Obviously the one against France (earlier this year) looked bad but sometimes you can just get caught on the chin. 

“I probably felt okay the next day, that night, so it’s not something I’m worried about personally. I think they’re looking after players more and the public is becoming more aware as well and it’s being written about more.

“People are more aware of it and it leads to more interest on the subject. As players we’re concerned about the effects it might have if you have lots of bad ones but I’m okay.”

The progress Ireland have made is mirrored in their rise to third in the world rankings, but the Racing Metro 92 out-half believes Ireland can keep that rate of improvement going. The most important thing, as seen in the final minutes against Australia, is that they are not revisiting the same mistakes. 

“I don’t think we’re doing that. We’re learning as we go. There’s plenty more to work on, you learn from playing the best teams in the world and that’s what we’ve done over the last few weeks,” he added.

“They test you in different ways defensively and we need to do some things better in attack than what we did. So, yeah, I think we’ve plenty to improve on and we can keep going there. That’s the best thing about the coaches that we have…it’s that they demand that and by no means will they be happy with what we’ve achieved. We’ll have to go again.”

Aer Lingus ambassador Jonathan Sexton was speaking at the launch of the airline’s ‘Great Winter Offers’ to North America and beyond, which include up to 54 weekly direct transatlantic flights starting from only €;209 for travel January 1-March 31. To avail of these great offers book by December 1.