France's forwards coach says their focus will be away from Johnny Sexton tomorrow

In 2015, Sexton wound up with a black eye during the France game.

France's forwards coach says their focus will be away from Johnny Sexton tomorrow

France will not repeat the mistake of targeting Johnny Sexton in tomorrow's Six Nations clash with Ireland in Dublin, according to forwards coach Yannick Bru.

Bru claimed Les Bleus lost focus in a host of previous and overt attempts to unsettle Ireland's pivotal playmaker.

The former hooker insisted France will instead be far busier fighting to contain Ireland's marauding loose-forward trio of CJ Stander, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip.

Ireland's fit-again fly-half Sexton could well view Bru's comments as just the latest battle in the long-running phoney war that surrounds France's roughhouse tactics, however, ahead of another doubtless attritional clash at the Aviva Stadium.

"Each time we've wanted to target him we've made big mistakes," said France forwards coach Bru.

Yannick Bru. Pic: Sportsfile
Yannick Bru. Pic: Sportsfile

"We didn't really work or speak about Sexton, we've spoken more about Heaslip, Stander and O'Brien.

"We know the big force of that Ireland team, we could see that in Italy, we could see them in Scotland.

"And Sexton was not there, so we haven't really worried about who would play fly-half for Ireland."

Bru has previous form when it comes to claiming France have learned their lesson on the futility of targeting Sexton.

In the build-up to Ireland hosting France in the 2015 Six Nations, Sexton was preparing to return from a 12-week concussion lay-off - and even then Bru claimed Les Bleus would change tack and leave him alone.

Back in 2015 Bru said of Sexton: "We respect him but to target him would be to forget that Joe Schmidt is very clever, so we will play as if Johnny wasn't there."

Sexton promptly wound up with a black eye so severe he could hardly see, with France clearly continuing their bullying tactics.

Ireland prevailed 18-11 that day in Dublin, and will now be hoping for more of the same two years on, as Sexton returns from a month-long absence due to calf trouble.

Leinster star Sexton was knocked unconscious but scored two tries when Ireland triumphed 22-20 in Paris to land the 2014 Six Nations title in Brian O'Driscoll's final Test match.

The 31-year-old copped yet more special attention when Ireland won out 24-9 in the 2015 World Cup - and was taken out by Yoann Maestri's cynical late hit in France's 10-9 win in Paris in last year's Six Nations.

While Sexton can certainly expect more of the same in the physicality stakes, Bru continued to wax lyrical on Ireland's back-row trio.

Stander, O'Brien and Heaslip have impressed across the Six Nations so far, and Ireland this weekend also have fit-again Peter O'Mahony on hand on the bench.

Bru claimed France will steel themselves for a gritty battle up front in their bid to subdue Ireland's top-performing unit.

"It's their ability to play fast and well," said Bru, of Ireland's back-row's qualities.

"Their speed, their skills, they are fast and very skilled and they don't make many mistakes, and when they create that intensity in the game it's always a good performance.

"We will try to fight them with our defence, but we know it will be a big challenge.

"Since the last World Cup I've had a lot of nightmares about Ireland.

"We know how they play, they will have the position and they will make a lot of phases.

"We're ready to face them, we've worked on defence.

"We're convinced they will challenge us on our ability to be physically ready.

"We know everything about Ireland as they know everything about France.

"There won't be a lot of surprises but we're ready for the challenge."

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