Six Nations

Sexton hopes he has learned 2009 Grand Slam lessons

2018-03-11 15:56
Johnny Sexton (Getty Images)

Dublin - Johnny Sexton says lessons he learned as a youngster from the 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam winning side will serve him in good stead as Ireland bid to secure the clean sweep against England next Saturday.

The 32-year-old star fly-half was part of the training squad for the 2009 tournament, but is now integral to Ireland's hopes of achieving only their third Five/Six Nations Slam.

They go to England boosted by having ended the two-year Six Nations reign of next Saturday's opponents due to a bonus point 28-8 win over Scotland and the English slipping to a second successive defeat, this time to France in Paris.

"As Declan Kidney (the then head coach) said, I was just as much a part of it as everyone else back in 2009 when I was in the bibs (the wider training squad)," said Sexton after the Irish had been confirmed as champions.

"I definitely didn't feel that way. But I think, I remember some of the talks that were made around those times, the (Paul) O'Connells, the (Brian) O'Driscolls, the (Ronan) O'Garas, who were trying to achieve this for 10 years."

"You could tell by their speeches and by their actions that season how much it meant to them and they had to drag along guys like Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney, these young guys coming through," added Sexton, who eventually made his Test debut in November 2009.

Sexton, who has been part of current head coach Joe Schmidt's three title-winning teams, says now it is for him and another bit-part player of the 2009 squad, captain Rory Best, to drag the younger players along.

"For us it's about trying to drag those young guys along, they probably think they are going to get lot of opportunities but as I know it doesn't work out like that," said Sexton.

"I remember playing Scotland in Croke Park for a Triple Crown (2010) and almost taking it for granted because I thought a Triple Crown, I'll have plenty of more opportunities for this and I still haven't won a Triple Crown.

"You've got to take these opportunities with both hands when they come."

Sexton, who said his last-gasp drop goal in the opening match against France could prove to be the pivotal moment of their campaign, insisted England would be no pushovers, especially as the Irish had denied them a second successive Grand Slam last year with victory in Dublin.

"We know how difficult it's going to be with England," said Sexton.

"The shoe is on the other foot now after last year and I'm sure they'll be gunning for us."

Schmidt said not too much should be read into the fact that England are yet to lose at home since Eddie Jones took over the reins after the 2015 World Cup debacle.

"I guess history doesn't protect you from the future," said Schmidt.

"We hadn't lost in five years in the Six Nations here in Dublin.

"It didn't protect us, we had to go out and win again.

"We need to go to Twickenham and try to test that record out.

"It won't be uppermost in our thinking because you can be distracted looking back when you need to be moving forward."

Schmidt, who will hope to regain his voice after going hoarse in the pre-match warm-up, said achieving his first Grand Slam would be not for him, but his players.

"I think it would give me incredible satisfaction, I work with these young men who go out and do an incredibly difficult job and work very hard," said Schmidt.

"It would give me incredible satisfaction to see that rewarded.

"In the end the satisfaction is something that really is placed around the effort that they make."

Read more on:    ireland  |  six nations  |  johnny sexton  |  rugby
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