JOHNNY SEXTON SAYS Ireland are determined to build on today’s stunning Six Nations win against France by pushing on and landing a first Grand Slam since 2018.

Today’s clash at Aviva Stadium had been billed as a potential Grand Slam decider as the top two teams in the world rankings went toe-to-toe, and Ireland’s 32-19 victory leaves Andy Farrell’s squad in pole position to push on and build on the momentum generated across a brilliant 2022 campaign.

“It’s been clear from the start, what we want to achieve,” Sexton said.

“It goes unsaid but everyone knows what we want to do. We won a Triple Crown last year but we want to go better this year. That’s what we speak about, to keep going on a trajectory like this as opposed to 2019 when we dipped. So, to get better is to win a Championship or a Grand Slam.

“How you do that is by concentrating on the next two weeks and try beat Italy away. We obviously saw the game last week, how tough it was for France (in Rome).”


The Ireland captain also praised scrum-half Conor Murray, who had a strong game in the number nine shirt following a difficult week off the pitch. On Tuesday, Murray’s father, Gerry, was hospitalised after being involved in a collision with a truck while cycling.

“It’s unbelievable really, isn’t it,” Sexton said.

It’s a mark of the character of a player, who in my eyes, has always been a class operator. He’s always been world-class in his position. He changed the game, in many ways, for scrum-halves.

“It’s amazing really that he could show up today and be so calm, and put in the performance that he did.”

Sexton also singled out James Lowe for his acrobatic first-half finish in the corner.

“It was an incredible finish. To jump at the right time and keep the ball under control, it’s world class.

“I’ve seen Keith Earls practise those in training with pads. I don’t think I’ve ever seen James practise them but then lots of things comes naturally to him. I love playing with him because he’s a phenomenal player and the energy he brings.”

That Lowe try was just one magic moment in a contest littered with quality as the two sides played out a Six Nations classic at Aviva Stadium.

“It was an incredible game, wasn’t it,” Sexton continued.

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“It felt like we were on the up after getting that try and then suddenly they open up. They can come alive can’t they? That’s what we spoke about.

Even though we won and got five points in the end, it still didn’t feel very comfortable. At the end, (Antoine) Dupont getting away, he’s a remarkable player. You have to alive to hold on to him, but look, we concentrated on last week for the two weeks in Portugal.

“Then we concentrated on this week and we knew we had to be across it in terms of the Championship and now we have got to decompress, take a few days off and come back.

“It’s not worth anything if we let it slip now against Italy in the next game. We have two weeks to prepare for that now and we need to be on top of our game going over there.”

Sexton was forced off early in the second half after being involved in a number of heavy collisions, with his Leinster teammates Ross Byrne steering Ireland home in impressive fashion.

“(Uini) Atonio tackled me and landed on my groin,” Sexton explained.

“It was another impact (injury) and I couldn’t run it off. I was gutted to come off, I was enjoying it. It felt good.

“The first game back is always difficult and then your second one, you always feel much better for it. But that’s life, I just have to look after it now and make sure I get myself right again.” 

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