Sexton rejects notion Schmidt’s impending departure a distraction for Ireland

November 19, 2022 0 By JohnValbyNation

JOHNNY SEXTON HAS rejected the suggestion Joe Schmidt’s decision to vacate his post as Ireland head coach following this year’s World Cup has caused a downturn in the team’s form. 

Schmidt’s side have been far from their best during the opening three rounds of their Six Nations title defence, with last Sunday’s victory over Italy in Rome pockmarked by a succession of basic errors and a worrying failure to retain possession.

Perhaps most disconcerting, in this year of all years, is the lack of obvious answers as Schmidt and the team bid to figure out why they have produced three substandard performances after a near-perfect season in 2018. 

Sexton after Sunday’s game in Rome. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The form of Sexton, and indeed half-back partner Conor Murray, is one of the reasons being suggested for Ireland’s slow start to the championship, while the world’s number two ranked side have also played without their usual clinical accuracy against England, Scotland and now Italy. 

Sexton let his frustrations boil over during the closing stages at the Stadio Olimpico as he left the field angrily muttering before kicking a towel on the sideline having been replaced by Connacht’s Jack Carty after 78 minutes. 

The Leinster out-half, and World Rugby Player of the Year, admitted he was ‘unbelievably frustrated’ but was not prepared to make excuses for Ireland’s stuttering form.

“How can you not be [frustrated] when you’re doing as good a preparation as you did last year, you’re training as well as you did last year?” he said in an interview with Ireland AM on Virgin Media One. 

“You’re doing everything right and things just aren’t clicking.

“No one cares more than us. That’s the bottom line. I’m sorry if I let my frustrations boil over at times but that’s part of me and I care a lot about the team and want it to do well so.

“You don’t always get it right but that’s part of the job. When you care about it you can let things boil over.”

On the notion that Schmidt’s announcement following last November’s historic win over the All Blacks has affected the squad, Sexton continued: “It’s not a distraction.

Sexton and Ireland face France on 10 March. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“We’ll talk about Joe for years to come when he’s finished. But for the moment it’s just been business as usual. Little things here and there just haven’t gone our way and we’re working incredibly hard to put it right.”

Sexton was typically honest in his appraisal of the performances, adding: “We just have to say that we haven’t been good enough yet.

“The difference, like I said, between playing good and having a bad game is so small.

“We said it when we were winning and you guys [media] think we’re just throwing out the punchlines. They’re genuinely true and something we believe in. And we had a little bit of luck last year along the way to achieve a Grand Slam.

“We probably didn’t get the bounce of those balls against England. Now, we’re trying to find that performance that we need to sort of revive us again and get us going.” 

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