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Sexton wants Grand Slam

There is a well-supported argument that it is great to win playing to your standards, sometimes even better to do so when not meeting them.

It leaves you with so much more to work on. Ireland were able to do this against Australia.

"Yeah, we didn't show a whole lot which will be good for when we come to the Six Nations when we can use what we had planned to use and we'll take that positive," said Jonathan Sexton.

Ireland's out-half has matured as a player and as a man into the sort of uncompromising character that views the rugby world through the same pragmatic eyes as his national coach Joe Schmidt.

The lapses of concentration in defence cost Ireland three tries and the lack of thrust in attack was a source of unease.

"Look, it's great we're talking about all of these deficiencies in our play after three wins," he said.

nice place

"It's a nice place to be and a good thing that we're doing it. We'd probably be talking about the same things if we'd lost.

"It's what we'll do when we meet to review it. We'll pretend like we did lose and take everything as it was.

"We know we've plenty to improve on, but we'll work on that and will improve by the Six Nations."

It is one of those traits of a born winner that he does not tend to look back too often at what has been done in a fast-moving world, usually forward to what lies ahead.

But, there has to be the pain of review when plans come undone.

The journey from New Zealand heartbreak last November to authority over Australian last Saturday was captured in Ireland's clear headed and committed late defensive action.

"I suppose the big learning from New Zealand was that last seven minutes, how we could do things different," he added

worst session

"It was probably the worst video session you could imagine, we had to relive that seven minutes again and the defensive errors that we made.

"And we learned from them. We didn't do the same thing against Australia when they had us under pressure in those last few minutes.

"We didn't make the system errors and we stayed patient and then we got the turnover when we had to.

"It's fine margins against these southern hemisphere teams. That's why they're so good and against New Zealand last year they made us pay, Australia made us pay and it's no different.

"We'd still like to go back and play that seven minutes against New Zealand again but I'm sure we'll face them over that World Cup campaign."

The Irish have jumped to third in the World Rankings and won nine of their last ten. They will have to plateau at some point. Have they reached their level? Will it get any better than 2014?

"No, I think we can keep that rate of improvement up. The most important thing is that we don't keep revisiting old mistakes," he said with unsurprising certainty.

"And I don't think we're doing that, we're learning as we go. There's plenty more to work on, you learn from playing the best teams in the world and that's what we've done over the last few weeks.

"They test you in different ways defensively and we need to do some things better in attack than what we did, so yeah I think we've plenty to improve on and we can keep going there.

"That's the best thing about the coaches that we have is that they demand that and by no means will they be happy with what we've achieved, we'll have to go again".

For the moment, Sexton will return to Racing Metro to play through the grind of the French Top-14 and The Rugby Champions Cup.

"I suppose we can just park it now. We can draw a line under 2014, be happy with what we achieved but know that we could have done more performance-wise."

However, there is also the underlying irritation that Ireland could have carried off a Grand Slam last Spring.

The Six Nations Championship was more than just a consolation. It was a high achievement, concluded in dramatic fashion in Paris.

And still.

"Many of us felt we probably left a Grand Slam behind because we had the winnings of that match in Twickenham.

"We're going to have to go again in the Six Nations and try and do it all over again."

It can't come around quick enough.