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Thursday 19 October 2017

Sexton: late hits are not being picked up

Sexton frustrated that illegal tackles are not punished

Jonathan Sexton relaxes at Carton House Photo: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton relaxes at Carton House Photo: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton in action against Italy during the Six Nations match Photo: Sportsfile

Jonathan Sexton is the single most important player to any of the Six Nations teams outside of Sergio Parisse.

For Italy, it often appears as though Parisse is their only game plan.

For Ireland, Sexton is the central figure for almost everything Ireland do well outside the set-piece. When Sexton plays well, Ireland play well.

The out-half has been on the end of enough hits in this Championship alone to know the difference between a committed one and a late, malicious one.

The nature of the beast is to win by any means necessary or permitted. In the case of Ireland, the referees appointed have not heeded the messaging of nations, like France, that let the world know they were out to get their man.

Late shoulder

When they got to him, as Yoann Maestri did with a late shoulder in Paris, there is no appropriate caution, like a card or a citing, merely a warning not to be a naughty boy again.

"The only frustrating thing, from my point of view, is that nothing has been done in terms of penalties are the worst things that have happened off a few of those late hits," he shared.

Where is the authority body World Rugby in all of this?

The responsibility to protect players does not reside with the clubs and countries alone.

Sexton's is not the moan of the mistreated.

"Look, it's part of the game. It's what you expect as a number ten," he stated.

"I suppose we try to target the opposition number tens as well, except we try to do legally.

"You don't know if it is a tactic or if it is an individual doing it off their own bat.

"It's part of the game, some of them are marginal like the one at the weekend," he said.

It would seem Sexton is alluding to the tackle Parisse could have pulled out of as opposed to the legal smash taken from Michele Campagnaro to open up a hole for Keith Earls.

"The best moves, Alan Gaffney used to say 'you had to put each other under pressure for a move to come off.'

"For that move to work the way it did, I had to almost get man and ball.

"That's what make the move work at times, if a defender feels he can get to you but the ball is somewhere else.

"If the move comes off it's great. You can get up and try and catch your breath for the conversion.

"There's absolutely no problem with a hit like that. Campagnaro was committed."

Sexton plays the game on the gain line where deception and a quick release can leave him open - to being opened up

It is real pain for potential gain.

Unfortunately, Ireland have not been quite good enough to carry out their commitment to a 'three-peat' in behind back-to-back Six Nations titles.

The near misses against Wales and France and the loss to England have been decorated with Sexton's sublime playmaking.

"I would rather be playing a little bit worse and winning," he said. "When you're playing number ten you judge yourself on results. And we haven't got them.

"You blame yourself as much as you look at the other guys around you."

There is still the matter of Ireland making it up to third and finishing on winning form they can take to South Africa in June.

"If we can win, it puts a totally different look on the championship.

"We'd obviously go two and a half (wins) rather than one and a half.

"It will get us into the top half of the table and make it look respectable."

This is all propagated on the presumption England will take care of France at Stade de France.

"It is difficult not to be playing for something this weekend but, then again, every time you play for Ireland it is a very proud day for everyone involved, whether it is yourself, your family or the team-mates around you.

"We don't want to finish third. We want to finish first. But third is at least better than fifth.

"That's the way we are looking at it."

SIX NATIONS: ireland v scotland (live rte2/itv 5.0)

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