Jonathan Sexton says Ireland will learn from their mistakes and quickly refocus on their crunch Pool D clash with France, following a sloppy performance in defeating Italy 16-9 in London this evening.
Ireland were made to fight all the way for their third victory of the tournament which sees them safely through to the quarter-finals. Next Sunday’s Cardiff showdown with unbeaten France will decide the final positions at the top of the pool.
The video review will be a tough watch for Joe Schmidt’s men given the high error count and loss of discipline that left them scrambling in the end for a seven-point win.
Ireland leaked 10 penalties with Tommaso Allan converting three of them, while Peter O’Mahony’s 71st-minute sin-binning meant that they ended the match with 14 players.
The positives to take forward include Keith Earls’ third try in two games (he set a new Irish RWC try-scoring record with his eighth tournament score, combining cleverly with centre partner Robbie Henshaw), a man-of-the-match performance from the increasingly prominent Iain Henderson and no tries conceded or any apparent injuries.
Jonathan Sexton, who kicked 11 points and sent Henshaw through a gap in the lead up to the try, said afterwards: “We won ugly, there’s lots to work on. I think most of the boys came through unscathed which is a positive for next week. It was always going to be a tough game.
“I don’t think it’s a reality check. We’re a very grounded group, we’re kept on the ground by our coach and I don’t think anyone was getting carried away with the results we had against Canada or Romania.
“We kinda had to look back on the World Cup warm-up games when we lost twice to get that reality check.”
The addition of regular captain Sergio Parisse to their team visibly lifted the Italians, with the talented number 8 showing no ill-effects of his recent calf problem. He had some key involvements in both defence and attack, and was arguably the most effective player on the pitch over the first hour.
Acknowledging the efforts of the Azzurri’s talisman, Sexton admitted: “Italy were always going to be at their best today after a couple of games behind them, and with Parisse back.
“It makes a massive difference to them defensively and from a leadership point of view and you saw him out there with some of his touches.”
All thoughts now turn to that Millennium Stadium shootout with France, a team that Ireland have beaten twice in the last couple of Six Nations Championships – 22-20 in Paris to clinch the 2014 title and 18-11 in a bruising affair at the Aviva Stadium last February.
Sexton was central to both of those victories, weighing in with two tries, two conversions and six penalties across the two games, and he says the men in green will need to hit top form in order to keep their winning run going.
“We’re going to play a team that’s similar to Italy – strong up front, powerful at the set piece. We’re going to need to be at the top of our game. The French always give their best at a World Cup.
“There are some parts of our game we’re not very happy with and we’re going to have to be better for next week.
“As I said, there’s a lot of stuff to work on. We got on the wrong side of the referee again so we have to go have a look at that and see where we went wrong and try learn from it for next week.”