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James Crombie/INPHO Scotland duo Finn Russell (left) and Stuart Hogg.
# Underdogs
'They’ve no championship to play for, but that’s when they can be at their most dangerous'
Johnny Sexton says memories of 2010 will warn Ireland against complacency as they prepare to face Scotland this weekend.

JOHNNY SEXTON HAS warned that Ireland must not allow complacency to creep in as they prepare for a final day Six Nations showdown with Scotland this weekend.

Ireland head into Saturday’s fixture looking to secure a first Triple Crown since 2018, with a potential championship also on the line depending on how the late kick-off between France and England unfolds.

Scotland, on the other hand, have only pride to play for after another mixed campaign, Gregor Townsend’s side beating England and losing to Wales and France, before struggling past Italy last weekend.

Ireland will be heavy favourites given their superior form and strong record against the Scots – Scotland’s last win in Dublin came at Croke Park in 2010 – but Ireland captain Sexton says that tag could suit the visitors this weekend.

“We definitely won’t be underestimating them,” Sexton says.

“We know some of the big results that they’ve had over the last couple of years away from home. I suppose they hadn’t a good record away from home and then in the last couple of years they’ve beaten France, they’ve beaten England and Wales in Parc Y Scarlets.

They’ve had some big scalps away from home and they’re a team to be reckoned with. I know they’ve no championship to play for but that’s when they can be at their most dangerous because they’ve got nothing to lose. They want to finish as high up the table as possible.

“But also any time you play a game, whether it’s a November international, a summer international, a Six Nations game that doesn’t have something riding on it, it’s very special. You’re still playing for your country, you’re still representing a lot, and we’re preparing for their best performance and they’ve got some outstanding individuals.”

Sexton and Cian Healy are the sole survivors in the current squad from that disappointing defeat in 2010 [the injured Keith Earls also featured, as did forwards coach Paul O'Connell], where Scotland’s only win of the championship denied Ireland a Triple Crown on the final day of action.

“Yeah the scar is still with me,” Sexton continues.

That’s exactly the lesson we are trying to get across to the lads. They had nothing to play for that day, we had a Triple Crown on the line and they came and did a job, they had nothing to lose and they played brilliant rugby, and yeah, it was a bad day.

“To have a packed out Croke Park, we got nothing out of the game. The benefit in having experience is we’ve got someone like that to explain to the lads we need to get our preparation spot on and we’ve got very good coaches who focus in on the process and make sure we our job right. I’m not sure too many of the lads will remember 2010, but I definitely will.”

Securing a Triple Crown would represent a significant achievement for Andy Farrell’s squad given some of the struggles they endured last season, when their attacking game failed to click and concerns were raised about the direction in which the team were heading.

Now they are a far more fluid and cohesive unit, a sharp attacking system supported by a solid defensive structure, while still looking some way off their best – Saturday’s scrum and discipline issues the latest indication that some areas still need refining. 

johnny-sexton Dan Sheridan / INPHO Sexton has warned Ireland against complacency. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“I remember talking to you guys 12 months ago or longer, 14 months ago probably when things weren’t going great from a results point of view but we knew we were sticking in there, our confidence levels were the same as they are now, confident in what we are doing and where we are going, but winning silverware won’t make it better or worse, but it might validate it a bit, but I still think we are on the right path, we are not really thinking like that…

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“It’s a great opportunity for us and we need to keep building, it’s important we need to keep improving every game that we play. We showed some great things against England, we hope that we are lot better this week.”

Having recently confirmed that his latest IRFU contract will be his last, Sexton knows that he is running out of opportunites to lift more silverware.

“It would be very special. Once we had lost that game to France we set our targets on this (Triple Crown). It’s the only thing that is in our control. If we can get a win and if we can do that, then we’re guaranteed. Obviously for us then that would be a good thing and then we can sit back and watch the end of it.

“But we have to hold our end of the bargain up. We have to make sure that we play really well. We have to perform on the big stage which is where we’re at. We want to perform for people who come and watch us. So all our focus is on our performance, but yeah, it’s good to know that if we do get it right and get a win that we’ve got a chance to lift some silverware in front of all those people.” 

Ireland internationals Devin Toner and Lindsay Peat were our guests for The Front Row’s special live event, in partnership with Guinness, this week. The panel chats through Ireland’s championship chances ahead of the final round of Guinness Six Nations matches, and members of the Emerald Warriors – Ireland’s first LGBT+ inclusive rugby team – also join us to talk about breaking down barriers in rugby. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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