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'Well, he is narky': Ireland or Sexton won't be fazed by pre-match parlé

The out-half is used to being targeted by big carriers and even more accustomed to criticism about his on-filed mood.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Sean Farrell reports from Celtic Manor

THE MOST SURPRISING thing about the flak directed towards Jonathan Sexton from France this week was that none of it was actually surprising.

Read any autobiography, watch any documentary, hear any player with a connection to the Ireland out-half. Everyone says the same thing. He’s not a laissez faire style of leader, not in the slightest.

Rob Kearney and Jonathan Sexton Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Well he is narky,” says a man who has known him as long as anyone in Wales this week.

“He knows it and we know it, but it gets the best out of him and the best out of us.

“That’s Johnny Sexton for you.”

Clearly, the number 10′s demanding style isn’t for everyone. His former coach Laurent Labit said he was ‘uncontrollable’ at times while former team-mates lamented that they see a different, a much better, Jonathan Sexton plying his trade in the the green of Ireland than the man who wore Ciel et Blanc in Paris for two years.

Sexton, you suspect, holds few regrets for letting his temper flare in an effort to kick-start an under-achieving team. And he’s surely well used to Eddy Ben Arous’ promise that France will ‘hunt’ him down in the Millennium Stadium on Sunday.

“I know one thing,” states Joe Schmidt after insisting he had not noticed the barbs coming towards his playmaker from France.

“Jonathan Sexton will not be found wanting for courage. He wont step out of the way.

Jonathan Sexton Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“He will put himself in harm’s way. He is a big, strong lad and I think that gives us some confidence that if they do go down that channel, Johnny will be ready for them.

“The guys coming off the back of the scrum and line-out will connect with him and those outside him like Robbie Henshaw, who again topped our tackle count last week with 16 out of 116 tackles. He has been really effective for us. Within the group they are looking forward to the challenge and they know it will be one heck of a challenge.”

A challenge, Schmidt’s side are more than ready to meet.

We won’t be fazed,” adds Kearney.

“There’s a huge amount of experience in this team and we’ve played in some massive occasions before. We’ve been exposed to hype, chat from the opposition.

“I’d like to think we’re all mature enough now and long enough in the game now to cope.

“It’s 15 on 15 for 80 minutes, everything else around that is just noise and unnecessary stuff that will have no effect on the outcome.”

Irish rugby squad ‘inspired’ by performance of the island’s two football teams

‘We’re in for one of the biggest weeks of our lives, it’s good to be involved’ — Peter O’Mahony

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Sean Farrell

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