Sexton keen to move on and see Ireland improve consistency

‘We don’t want to go with a massive performance then massive dip.’

IMPROVEMENT WAS JONATHAN Sexton’s word of the day as he headed up media duties for Ireland ahead of Friday’s Autumn Nations Cup meeting against Wales.

The healing powers of time are not available for application to Ireland’s Six Nations disappointment. So, while Sexton finds himself repeating that Ireland finished third and were now looking to improve, the captain and out-half sought to draw a thick line under the five games broken up by a pandemic. Not to mention his own final act when he was replaced late in the loss to France.

johnny-sexton Source: Dave Winter/INPHO

“Ultimately we’re never going to be able to make up for last Saturday,” Sexton said of the collective performance.

“Obviously we want to get better and we want to improve and we want to target this competition and try and win it and then target next year’s Six Nations.

“It’s one that got away last weekend because we didn’t play to our potential and now everything this week is about playing to our potential.”

Asked for specifics on what area needed most improvement, Sexton joked ‘where do we start’ before noting that they try to take a critical view to their entire game no matter what the preceding result.

“We generally look at all areas of our game and try and improve on all. Even if some things go well we still try and improve on it, we always try and find fault with our performance so that’s pretty much what the week has been.

“It’s been very much going through all the parts of our game: set-piece, starter plays, our phase stuff, our attack in their 22; all of that stuff needs to be better than it was last week and our defence needs to better. So every part of our game really.”

johnny-sexton Sexton in training last month. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Indeed, taking a broad view of the newly-created tournament, Sexton hopes the word improvement will loom large at the end of the four Tests ahead. And the end of Andy Farrell’s first year in charge.

“We’d have liked to have improved our performance levels and be consistent.

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“We’re trying just to focus on 2020 because it’s a new team and a new coach, as we’ve said before, so we’ve tried to just focus on this campaign.

“We’ve had some great performances, we’ve had some average and we had a poor one, obviously, over in Twickenham, especially in the first half.

“It’s about improving our consistency over the next four games and making sure our performance levels improve from last week, and then stays at a high level for week on week.

We don’t want to go with a massive performance then massive dip – up and down – we need to get that level of consistency. Sometimes that can come with being together a while.

“You look at the last Irish team under Joe and it took us a while to get that consistency. Then, over a few years, we were really consistent in winning four out of five in the Six Nations and winning that Grand Slam. We can get there. We know we can. We’ve got people in our team and people in our backroom staff, the coaches, that are top-class coaches and top-class people.

“We just need to stick together. Like I said, the Six Nations was a start for us and not a drag-over from the previous campaign.”

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Sean Farrell

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