SOUTH AFRICA ROUGHED UP just about every Irish player in black and green two weeks ago but Jonathan Sexton got some extra-special treatment.
Not content with Eben Etzebeth’s antics as he weighed up a first-half penalty, Francois Louw and Juandré Kruger left bodily impressions on the out-half whenever they got a chance.
A groin injury ‘flare up’ did for Sexton’s involvement against Fiji, rather than battle fatigue, but he insists that he can put in an 80-minute shift if required today.
If his teammates can match that commitment, Ireland could be sitting snug in the world rankings before the sun sets on Dublin.
Sexton, who scored 17 points in a home win over Argentina in 2010, told TheScore.ie, “It’s very easy to [impose yourself] at the start when you’re psyched up for a game.
“It’s about doing it when there’s 20 minutes to go and you need a score. Having the intensity at that time.”
More of the same with a side order of new
Sexton is adamant that the Pumas have evolved a stealthy attacking game and will not be solely seeking a breakdown battle against Ireland. He would not be surprised, however, if tensions soon rise to the surface.
“Argentina and Ireland has always been a bit like that,” he said. “They are two very passionate teams who want to represent their country and do well so it boils over sometimes.”
The selection of Craig Gilroy has generated hope that Ireland will take the fight to Argentina in the backfield and Sexton has backed the young winger to shine. He said:
He’s pretty terrifying to play against … we’ve played him before with Leinster and we’ve had to give him special mention before the game as he is able to beat the first tackler a lot of the time.
“He’s an out-and-out winger who can do some serious damage when he gets the ball.”
Gilroy has not lost a competitive rugby match since last season’s Heineken Cup Final against Sexton’s Leinster. While the Ulster man is confidence personified, the out-half is struggling to cope with Ireland’s five-match losing run.
“As an out-half it’s your team in many ways and you do take it a little bit personally.
“You have to ask yourself ‘What could I have controlled or done differently?’ If there are little things you could have done better you take them. If not, you move on.”
Hold on to what you’ve got
The question of Ireland’s squandered leads in tight games over the past nine months is raised and the teams South Africa, New Zealand and France are raised before a pause ensues.
“Wales,” Sexton helpfully offers.
“We wish we could put a finger on it,” he added. “We wish it was the same thing every time because then we could fix it.” He expanded on the point:
It is frustrating because we’ve come so close and look at the quality of the teams that have been mentioned there. To be in with a shout against New Zealand and then to give it up was difficult to take.”
“Over in Paris it was the bounce of a ball. We thought it was a knock-on and we stopped playing and they’re in the corner,” he added. “Seven points.”
“Hopefully we’ll get the rub of the green this weekend.”
*TheScore.ie will be covering Ireland v Argentina live at the Aviva from 1:30pm.