Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
PA Wire/PA Images Eddy Ben Around, half-back hunter.
# Bad Blood
Sexton 'slow getting rid of the ball, I will hunt him,' says ex-Racing team-mate
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FRANCE, IT SEEMS, have a very cunning plan for this weekend’s Pool D decider against Ireland, target Jonathan Sexton.

Joe Schmidt’s playmaker was drawn in to the spotlight this week by his former colleagues at Racing Metro, with coach Laurent Labit calling the demanding St Mary’s man ‘hyper-sensitive’.

Clearly, he’s not the only Frenchman who thinks Leinster’s new signing can be put off his game. Sexton’s former team-mate Eddy Ben Arous sounded a clear warning that he’s out to get the out-half and reckons he knows how to catch up with him.

“I know that he is slow in getting rid of the ball, I am going to try and put the maximum pressure on him,” the loosehead said this week.

“I am going to hunt him down as often as possible. We are going to go after him 200% because he is their most important player.”

Obviously, targeting an out-half is nothing new. Teams always seek to run heavy hitters at light players and the out-half is usually one of the most slender men on the park. Indeed, France have continually targeted Sexton during their four-year stretch without a win. Ben Arous’ promise to hunt the 30-year-old merely brings up memories of Sexton’s concussion suffered in the 2014 Six Nations finale in Paris.

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Sexton is no shrinking violet, however, his 92kg frame is far from an easy target and tends to punch above its weight class. His last encounter with Les Bleus, was his first outing after a three-month absence enforced by concussion and Philippe Saint Andre sent Mathieu Bastareaud down his channel time after time.

We can expect more of the same on Sunday. France know the threat Sexton poses is massively different from close-up view they got of the Dubliner in his two years at Racing.

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“It’s true there are two Jonathan Sextons, at Racing 92 he had some difficulty, I’m not sure if it was the fact he was playing in France.

“In any case, there are two of him, and we didn’t have the best one with us.”

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