Rob Kearney has dismissed the suggestion that Jonathan Sexton’s fits of temper are having an adverse effect on the Ireland squad.
Former Ireland out-half Tony Ward made the claim in his newspaper column this week, arguing that there is a fear factor surrounding the world player of the year right now and that it is having a negative impact on team morale.
Sexton's reputation for exacting standards is legendary and he has shown his displeasure at some of the attention received from opposing players during play in this Six Nations – while also speaking about it in the media.
Ireland's struggles on the field of play have clearly been an issue as well and his dissatisfaction was most apparent in Rome two weekends ago when making way for debutante Jack Carty with a handful of minutes to go.
The 33-year old was seen to mouth a handful of expletives and kick a towel as he left the Stadio Olimpico field, but Kearney shrugged off the idea that such raw emotions were an issue in a team chasing its best form.
“That’s Johnny, isn’t it? We’re a little bit used to it,” said Kearney, his Leinster and Ireland teammate. “We all get frustrated and we all show our frustration in different ways. I’ve played with Johnny for 15-odd years so I’m the wrong person to ask.”
Kearney gave a grin when asked if he had ever been on the receiving end of Sexton's sharp tongue,.
“Weekly,” he said. “Johnny understands the game very well and is very clear in how he wants to play it. That’s his way of communicating it.”
Ireland spent their down week last well in Belfast where they mixed a three-day training camp with some down time exploring the city. The hope is that whatever ailed them through the first three rounds will have been washed from the soul ahead of the visit of France to Dublin this weekend.
The French gave their best performance of the Six Nations to date against the Scots in Paris a fortnight ago. The choice of an unchanged side by Jacques Brunel adds to the sense of a side that has found its feet at the wrong time for Joe Schmidt & Co.
The suspicion is that praise for the French win should be tempered by the absence of so many Scottish players through injury the last day, but Kearney accepts that the visitors will travel buoyed equally by the hand-wringing in their hosts' camp.
“They’ll probably sniff a little bit of blood,” said the veteran full-back. “If you’re analysing a team that is not firing at their best, that’s the nature of sport.”
Schmidt will name his squad for the French test on Wednesday morning but it appears certain that Robbie Henshaw will miss out on the occasion with an IRFU update revealing that the centre's 'dead leg' is responding “more slowly than hoped” to treatment.
Joe Carbery is said to be progressing well through a hamstring issue but is nonetheless being “managed” throughout the week, but Andrew Conway has recovered fully from cramp suffered in Rome while Dan Leavy is continuing to add to his workload on his return from injury.
Leavy has yet to feature in this Six Nations.
All of the squad players who featured for the four provinces last weekend have reported back to Ireland camp reporting no ill effects from their exertions and every last man Jack will be needed given the team faces Wales in Cardiff six days after France.