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'I’m well used to competition' - Fit-again Sexton aiming for swift Ireland return

The Ireland captain is hoping to feature in Sunday’s Six Nations meeting with Italy.

Sexton during an Ireland training session.
Sexton during an Ireland training session.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

JOHNNY SEXTON HAS confirmed he is ‘good to go’ for Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Italy on Sunday, having missed the round two defeat to France due to a hamstring injury.

The Ireland captain suffered the muscle issue in the days leading up to the trip to Paris, his absence resulting in Joey Carbery being promoted to the first XV to win his first Six Nations start.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell now faces an interesting selection call with his two leading out-halves both fit and available, while Connacht Jack Carty’s will also be hoping to come into the equation having been sprung from the bench for the final two minutes in Paris.

“Yeah, good to go thankfully,” said Sexton.

“Trained fully at the back end of last week and then did a day with the physios the day we played the U20s (Saturday), and then trained fully again today and yesterday, so good to go.

“I pulled out early on the Wednesday (before France) and was hoping it wasn’t too bad, but we went for a scan and it was bad enough to rule me out of the game.”

Sexton added that he felt Carbery ‘did well’ at the Stade de France, but will be aiming to come straight back into Andy Farrell’s team.

“To get called in late, it’s always tougher. I suppose he would have been preparing the same anyway, knowing him, he’s a very good professional and always does his prep right. So I don’t think it would have affected him too much.

joey-carbery-and-johnny-sexton Carbery and Sexton will both be hoping to start against Italy. (file photo) Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“But look, he was composed on the day and did well, and it’s good for him, (after) having a tough time with injuries to get back. He’s played a few games now in the summer and then Argentina and France, so he’s getting those games in the international arena under his belt and he’ll only be much better for it.

“I’m well used to competition. Like, I’ve had it early doors, whether it was with Ronan (O’Gara) and Felipe (Contepomi) with Ireland and at Leinster, and when you have the jersey there is always someone else that you are competing with over the years like Ian Madigan, Ian McKinley, Paddy Jackson or Joey obviously.

Joey has been around a long time now. He is 26 now so I have been used to it for the last five years really. It’s nothing new. Nothing has changed for me. What’s important for me is that I prepare as best I can. I can’t worry too much about what other people are doing. You’ve got to concentrate on yourself and that’s what I have always tried to do.

“Of course I respect all the other 10s at Leinster. I have got great competition with the other three guys there and so it is nothing new. You have to make sure you are fit and firing when you do get the chance to play.”

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Sexton added that he was particularly disappointed to miss out on the France game given how his last visit to the stadium ended. The postponed 2020 Six Nations fixture saw Andy Farrell’s side come out on the wrong end of a 35-27 defeat, with Sexton’s visible unhappiness with being substituted providing an ugly post-game talking point.

“I’m not the best spectator and this game was particularly tough,” Sexton said.

“I suppose it was a game I almost had in my head for the last two years, based on what happened there previously and I thought that I was in a great place to go and put that to bed and put those demons to bed.

“Look, bad timing to pick up the small injury that I did, but there was some great learnings for the team in there, but it was definitely tough to watch (from the stands), yeah.”  

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Ciarán Kennedy

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