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'I don't think it's a reality check, we're a very grounded group'

Sexton says the presence of Sergio Parisse had a big impact on the game.

Sexton kicked four from five in the Olympic Stadium
Sexton kicked four from five in the Olympic Stadium
Image: David Davies

JOHNNY SEXTON IS adamant that Ireland did not underestimate the challenge of Italy this afternoon.

Ireland laboured to a 16-9 win against their fellow Six Nations opponents, who had arrived into the game on the back of poor performances against France and Canada.

In contrast, Ireland had come into today’s Pool D meeting with maximum points from two games, before being held to one try and three penalties in the seven point win.

However, Sexton maintained that the sloppy performance had nothing to do with carelessness. Speaking to TV3 after the game, Sexton said that Joe Schmidt would not stand for his side slacking off against ant team.

“We won ugly, lots to work on and I think most of the boys came through unscathed which is a positive for next week.

“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,” he said.

“We kind of had to look back on the World Cup warm-up games to get that reality check.”

One major factor in Italy’s improvement was captain Sergio Parisse, returning after an operation to remove fluid from his left leg. The Stade Francais number eight had a big impact on the game, and Sexton says he made life very difficult for Ireland.

“It was always going to be a tough game and they were always going to be at their best today after a couple of games before, and Sergio Parisse back. It makes a massive difference to them from a leadership point of view and you saw him out there with some of his touches.”

Sexton also highlighted Ireland’s high penalty count, conceding 10 penalties throughout the 80 minutes, three of which were kicked for points by Tommaso Allan.

The Irish out-half says they’ll be studying the game tape intently this week to avoid a repeat in the pool decider against France next Sunday.

“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.

“There’s a lot of stuff to work on, we got on the wrongs 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.”

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Neil Treacy

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