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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Sexton: We must give Kidney the win he deserves

THE big boot does not come with a big mouth.

It has always been Jonathan Sexton's way to beat down the coach's door rather than beat a path to the media about where he should play and how many minutes he should play for.

You see some things are best kept out of the spotlight. But, he is Ireland's goal-kicker and chief playmaker, the best chance for success tomorrow afternoon.

By extension, Sexton could be the main saviour of his coach, Declan Kidney, who has had to make too many excuses, too many times for there not to be a tremor of trepidation about his future job status.

The Leinster fly-half carries the burden lightly: "They've worked incredibly hard. They're obviously under a bit of pressure as are the players. We're all in his together," he said. "They've done everything right by us and we will try to do that for them on Saturday and get the win that they deserve and we probably deserve.

"But, you don't always get what you deserve. We have to go out there and earn it," he said.

For all the chatter about Ireland's slump, the high-wire Kidney is walking and the need to do better for each other and for the country, the consequences of defeat speak more loudly than any coach's motivational speech.

"If we can get a win here, it will be a decent Autumn international series. It will get us into the second-tier of the World Cup rankings," noted Sexton.

From there, the whole panoramic changes in one fell swoop. The Six Nations is on the horizon. France look likely. Wales look short on confidence, England short of identity, Scotland and Italy short of players. Everything comes alive in spring time.

"Touch wood, we'll have five or six world-class players coming back into our squad. It will bode well for the Six Nations. There will be good competition for places."

For the moment, Sexton will inhabit the here-and-now. He cannot afford the luxury of a gaze into the future. Ireland are one more loss away from a nightmare scenario at the 2015 World Cup.

"We won't see the outcome of the result for two-and-a-half years. For a lot of the guys playing, it will be their last World Cup," he said.

"We would obviously prefer to be in that second-tier. We looked at that at the start of the week. Now, we are trying to concentrate on the performance and get that right".

The main approach has been to banish negative thoughts in favour of a positive, goal-oriented plan to deal with what happens as it happens.

"If you go in 'hoping' you'll get a win, you won't get it. In the second half against South Africa we were probably 'hoping' we would hold on to our lead rather than attacking the game like we did in the first half. It's all about our performance, trying to take the win out of the equation".

Is it that easy? "No. It's not. We all desperately want to win. It is about trying to control what you can control and hope that the rest will look after itself.

"We have had a lot of results that have got away from us by one score. It is tough to take.

"It could be so different. We are where we are. It is disappointing. We can't do anything about that now. We can only go forward".

By bringing The Pumas to heel, Ireland would immediately inject confidence into the international arm of the IRFU. There are personal, collective and financial ambitions to be sated.

The secret to Ireland's lack of success is in the details. The small mistakes make for the small margins that separate victory from defeat.

This calendar year Ireland have played nine matches, winning two, drawing one against France, losing six, three of them by one score to Wales, New Zealand and South Africa. These are the facts.

Harder

"At international level, it is harder to sit back and try to defend a lead. The French game (in the 2012 Six Nations) sticks out for me in Paris. It was quite similar to the South African game," offered Sexton.

"Everything went to plan in the first half and then we lost our discipline, gave them penalties, gave them field position. That started snowballing and ended with them having a lot of pressure on us.

"The first half went spot-on against South Africa. They rarely got into our half. They were always going to have purple patch and it was about how we dealt with it.

"And we didn't".

This is Ireland's last chance to save the month of November. It could be Kidney's last chance.

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