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'If Sexton plays well, we'll win and if Sexton plays badly, we'll lose'

Paul Wallace thinks a lot is resting on how Sexton performs against England.

After two games under his belt, Paul Wallace thinks Sexton is primed to deliver on Sunday.
After two games under his belt, Paul Wallace thinks Sexton is primed to deliver on Sunday.
Image: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

IF YOU WANT to know how important Jonathan Sexton is to Joe Schmidt’s team just rewind the France game and listen to the audible intake of breath from the stand after big Bastareaud charged into the out-half during the second half.

Ian Madigan is a very good player but there’s no doubt that Ireland need their general in the ten channel to be firing if the team is to reach its potential.

The battle of the out-halves will be very interesting at the Aviva as Sexton goes up against 21-year-old George Ford. Remarkably, Ford used to stand behind the goal at Ireland training catching Ronan O’Gara’s penalties when his dad Mike was the Irish defence coach.

Now he is running a very potent English backline and maximising the talent outside him with his array of probing passes that allow the likes of Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson to slice through opposition defences.

Former Ireland and Lions prop Paul Wallace told The42 that how Sexton goes against Ford in his third game back from injury will help decide the outcome of Sunday’s game.

“Their [Ireland] X factor is Johnny Sexton,” Wallace said.

“I’m expecting a huge performance from him now that he is two games back from his lay-off. If Sexton plays well, we’ll win and if Sexton plays badly, we’ll lose. He is used to that pressure and I think Ireland will target George Ford.”

England looked very strong in dispatching Wales, scoring two well-worked backline tries while also winning a series of scrum penalties. However Wallace doesn’t think the Irish pack will be anywhere near as submissive as the Welsh octet.

“Wales were very soft up front and England demolished them in that area which made them look very, very good,” Wallace said.

“They won’t be able to do that against Ireland – they might get the upper-hand slightly but they won’t be able to do it in the same manner and that makes it a much different game.”

bike Paul Wallace will be taking part in the Lifes2good CROSS Atlantic 1000, which will be staged from 5th – 11th September 2015. The Rugby Legends Cycle for Cross Charity Supporting Cancer Research at Trinity College Dublin, now in its 4th year, takes a twist in 2015 as the route embraces 1,000kms of beautiful scenery on the Wild Atlantic Way from Skibbereen to Donegal. Over 7 stages, it stops off along the way to visit schools and attend events to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Source: Marc O'Sullivan

There has been a funny shift in styles between Ireland and England, in contrast to what we might have seen in the past. While the English pack is still dominant, the side very much look to play expansive rugby with their Bath contingent driving that style.

Now it is Ireland who play a very regimented style that relies on everyone from 1-15 fulfilling their assigned role to a tee. Wallace thinks the Irish players do have a licence to cut loose on occasion but that the Irish coach has smartly tailored various game plans to suit the talent at his disposal.

“England play the game the way it should be played and Ireland play to their strengths,” Wallace said.

“It is not the prettiest game, it hasn’t been for two seasons now but Joe Schmidt has a winning formula.”

One key battle on Sunday will be between English loosehead Joe Marler and Irish tighthead Mike Ross. Marler dominated the veteran in the European back-to-backs in December and Ross was omitted from the Leinster matchday squad for the final two pool games thereafter.

Still, Wallace says it was the right call to bring Ross into the starting team but expects to see Marty Moore feature prominently in the second half.

“I think Ross’ scrummaging is better than Marty Moore’s,” Wallace said.

“He’ll probably play 50 minutes. Tighthead props need a kick in the arse now and again and being left out at Leinster probably did that. Marty Moore has done well but I think Ross is definitely the better scrummaging option but we will definitely see Moore at some stage.”

Unlike many pundits The42 have talked to recently, Wallace is actually predicting an Ireland win on Sunday. He reckons the aforementioned Sexton factor will play a role but also points to the return of Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy as factors that Ireland might be coming into form at the perfect time.

“Ireland are just getting into position for this game so I think the stars are kind of aligning and this should be Ireland peaking,” Wallace said.

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