Sexton straight-bats Jones barbs

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 14:40

PRE-MATCH VERBAL SPARRING: Jonathan Sexton has insisted he won't be blown off course by jibes from England coach Eddie Jones.

Jones suggested that Ireland will play a "kick and clap" game in Saturday's Six Nations clash in Dublin.

Victory for England, already crowned Six Nations champions, over Ireland at Lansdowne Road would see them set a new record of 19 consecutive Test wins by a leading rugby union nation.

It would also mean they had become the first side in the Six Nations era to complete back-to-back Grand Slams.

Ireland, by contrast, saw their title hopes effectively ended with a 9-22 defeat by Wales last week - a match in which playmaker Sexton was sin-binned.

It appears that just as Jones's fellow Australian David Campese used to rile the England team of the late 1980s and early 1990s about their 'boring' rugby, in the hope of getting them to depart from a successful style, so too is the England coach trying to help get Ireland off track. 

His words have touched a nerve in Ireland where they haven't forgotten Jones's comments from last year that Sexton's parents would be "worried" about his long-term health following a history of concussion injuries.

Ireland officials reacted furiously to the implication they were taking risks with the British and Irish Lions' flyhalf's long-term health.

As for Jones's latest comments, Sexton said: "I am not sure. I have never worked with him so I don't know what he is like behind the press. It is not Eddie I am trying to please, it is [Ireland coach] Joe [Schmidt] I am trying to please.

"We have got a pretty clear plan and we always do have a pretty clear plan and we will just keep trying to do that better. That is the key."

Sexton will be without regular halfback partner Conor Murray, who has failed to recover from a shoulder injury suffered against Wales, for a match where an Ireland win could still see them finish second in the Championship.

Instead, he will have the inexperienced Kieran Marmion alongside him at scrumhalf.

But Sexton said there was no additional burden on his shoulders because of Murray's absence.

"I feel pressure every game I play for Ireland and every game I play for Leinster because I put pressure on myself and guys around you put pressure on you," he said.

It was Ireland who ended New Zealand's 18-match winning streak with a 40-29 victory over the world champions in Chicago in November.

"We want to be the team that's fighting for the championship and trying to be consistent," said Sexton.

"Now we're in a position where we have nothing to play for except to stopping them doing something.

"We don't want to be in that situation but we are and we've probably got to enjoy it now.

"Then we can worry about how we're going to become the team that England and the All Blacks are after the Championship."

Agence France-Presse

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