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Dublin: 5°C Wednesday 21 April 2021

'I was very disappointed coming off like everyone would be' - Sexton

The Ireland skipper bemoaned his side’s inability to be clinical with their chances at Stade de France.

Image: Dave Winter/INPHO

JOHNNY SEXTON HAS never been a master at disguising his emotions on the rugby pitch, for better or for worse, and it was the Ireland captain whose visible frustration at being subbed off that summed up the night in Paris.

The out-half seemed bemused to be called ashore after Ireland got back to within eight points of the French and with over 10 minutes of the game remaining.

His repeated head-shaking as he walked off will be viewed as poor leadership and perhaps even an insult to the coaching staff by some, while others will simply see it as a sign of the 35-year-old’s relentlessly competitive spirit.

“I was very disappointed coming off like everyone would be,” said Sexton when asked what his feelings were in those moments.

“You’re losing the game when you’re coming off. What would you like me to be doing when I’m coming off the pitch?

“Disappointment that we didn’t win the game. We were 28-20 down with 10, 12 minutes to go and we had a five-metre lineout and we didn’t capitalise.

“They’re just the moments that you will look back on and regret.”

Certainly, regret is the overriding feeling Ireland will leave Paris with. Les Bleus were brilliant in many ways and deserved their 35-27 victory to claim second spot in the Six Nations, but Sexton and co. will feel they could have won if their game hadn’t become so error-ridden.

A big decision to go down the line with a penalty just before half-time proved to be a costly moment, as France turned Ireland over metres from their tryline to retain a 17-13 lead at the break and get a major momentum boost in the process.

jacob-stockdale-dejected It was a disappointing night for Ireland in Paris. Source: Dave Winter/INPHO

“We could have taken three, but we knew we had to win the game by more than six or get more tries so we were trying our best to put the pressure on because we knew the French team,” said Sexton of that decision.

”With the players they have, could score tries from nothing. It’s a bit like when you’re playing the All Blacks, you have to have the mentality to go out and score tries.

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“Sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn’t. The decision I thought was brave.”

Fabien Galthié’s men duly came out from the interval to score a beautiful try on kick return finished by out-half Romain Ntamack. Ireland were chasing the game from there and their accuracy levels dipped damagingly as the French grew more confident.

“At this level, you can’t give teams scores from your mistakes,” said Sexton.

“You need to make them work hard for them. They made us work unbelievably hard for our scores and we weren’t clinical enough when we got… I don’t know how many five-metre lineouts we had.

“Our conversion rate from them wasn’t too hot. A couple of five-metre scrums and the difference it can make from taking a couple of those opportunities.”

Sexton clearly felt Ireland should have had a penalty try in the first half when Anthony Bouthier was sin-binned, while he underlined just how tough the conditions had been due to the rain in Paris.

“There’s a film on new balls, then just how greasy it was with the rain, the ball was like a bar of soap,” said Sexton.

“Of course, it’s easier when you’re winning the game because you don’t need the ball, you can kick it long and that’s what we knew they were going to do. I’m surprised we got as many set-pieces as we did because we didn’t expect to get that many.

“It is easier to play those conditions when you are winning because you don’t need the ball.

“They capitalised on our mistakes and the loose ball a lot and they have some individual players who can punish you from nothing.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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