Sexton demands step up from 2018 Grand Slam performance

Johnny Sexton threw down the gauntlet to his Ireland team ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Twickenham, saying they will need to play even better there this time than in their Grand Slam-winning victory of 2018.

Sexton demands step up from 2018 Grand Slam performance

Johnny Sexton threw down the gauntlet to his Ireland team ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Twickenham, saying they will need to play even better there this time than in their Grand Slam-winning victory of 2018.

The 24-15 victory over England on St Patrick’s Day two years ago is widely considered the benchmark performance of the Joe Schmidt era as Ireland executed their gameplan brilliantly with a mix of power, precision, and clinical finishing.

Speaking yesterday before Ireland left their Abbotstown training base for an afternoon flight to London Heathrow, Sexton praised that 2018 performance in freezing conditions but warned Ireland will have to do better against a much-improved England side than that day if they are to complete a Triple Crown at Twickenham and continue their winning start to the 2020 championship.

“With a Grand Slam on the line and to put in a performance that we did that day was extra special,” the captain said, “and it’s going to take probably better than that this year to go and do the same.

“I think they’re in a much better place. They’ve obviously been to a World Cup final. They’re talking about wanting to be the best team ever, all these things, so they’re in a different stage of their path or whatever you want to call it than they were then.

Duncan & Duncan Rugby: John Quill's American odyssey, Munster's West Cork hub, props play darts

“I think they were going through a poor Six Nations that time whereas they’ve got everything to play for this time. They’re just further along the road with Eddie Jones as well.”

Sexton does not believe the best of England has been seen yet in this Guinness Six Nations after a loss to France in Paris and hard-fought win over Scotland in Murrayfield during Storm Ciara.

“We’re going to be preparing for the best England team that we’ve seen in this championship because they’ve played two games in pretty poor conditions so we haven’t seen their best.

“We’ve prepared for their best by watching the games they played against us last year, the New Zealand game they played in the (World Cup) semis, a lot of their other World Cup games as well. It’s been a good prep but we know we have it all to do.”

Johnny Sexton threw down the gauntlet to his Ireland team ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Twickenham, saying they will need to play even better there this time than in their Grand Slam-winning victory of 2018.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox