Sexton: 'Keep the criticism coming'

Jonathan Sexton has faced the brickbats before.

Sexton: 'Keep the criticism coming'

Jonathan Sexton has faced the brickbats before.

The Ireland out-half may have been one of the world's best players for the last decade but he has not been immune to poor individual performances, pointed criticisms of his game, or his spiky on-field temperament, in that stretch of time.

Two shanked goal kicks in the first-half against England, a mistake that led to a George Ford try and a handful of other errors contributed to a very bad day at the office last time out and one made all the worse by the fact that so many of his teammates struggled similarly.

"I'm my biggest critic,” Sexton said after Ireland's open session in Donnybrook's Energia Park on Friday. “I was gutted for the last three or four days, absolutely gutted with my performance. Full of confidence going into the game and sometimes you have one of those games where the bounce of the ball affects you and there is just a knock-on effect, a few errors. I was happy with how I came out in the second-half.

"Not a day I will remember fondly but it is what it is. I've had it throughout my career where you have one of those games. It might be a season or every couple of seasons or it could be a run of games. It is what it is.

“Once you prepare well and have the best intentions to perform and do everything you can to perform, most of the time it happens and sometimes it doesn't. It is what it is. I'm well used to the criticism, I've had it for my whole career. One week you're good, one week you're bad. Keep it coming.”

Sexton's eagerness to get back on the horse in the follow-up fixture, against Italy, on Saturday week has been knocked back due to the spread of the coronavirus. His first thought when that delay was confirmed was to think about togging out for Leinster against Glasgow at the RDS tonight.

That clearly won't be happening.

The approach of the Ireland brains trust to all this uncertainty has been to carry on regardless with their plans and simply replace the Italy game with a weekend off duty. The hope is that they can be fresh and yet still carry an edge when they face France in Paris in round five.

Whether the French game goes ahead is a moot point in itself. The domino effect being witnessed with the coronavirus concern makes any best-laid plans subject to the possibility of considerable change and Andy Farrell is wise enough to concentrate on controlling the controllables.

"We don't know,” he said when asked about the likelihood of the French game going ahead as planned. “That's the answer, we don't know. All we can do is prepare properly that the game is going ahead. We've been in for a few days this week and that was the normal prep that we was going to have anyway.

“We're going to have a rest this weekend, come back in Sunday and train Monday and Tuesday, then Thursday. Then we have a long weekend off, so the key for us is to use the time appropriately and to our advantage as well."

The disappointment of that 24-12 loss in London lingers but it has been placed in perspective by the coronavirus threat which, in a sporting sense, has accounted for the Ireland men's, women's and U20s meetings with the Italians next week.

England's visit to Rome in round five is another fixture under doubt given the extent of the outbreak in northern Italy and there is already enough hand-wringing over the question of just when the postponed Italy-Ireland game can be fit into a packed schedule.

There is little to no chance of it being refixed during the current season given the club commitments and the approach of Euro 2020 which will place the Aviva Stadium in Dublin off limits for over a month before the first game in June.

The IRFU has contractual commitments to keep regarding Ireland's test games in the stadium which rules out the possibility of the game being played elsewhere and players will still be in pre-season mode until as late as October.

There are no easy answers to this one.

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