Johnny Sexton is hoping that the childhood dream of leading Ireland to Grand Slam glory in Dublin does not prove to be the pinnacle of his career as he turns his attention to a crack at becoming world champions.
Fly-half Sexton enjoyed a memorable Guinness Six Nations swansong lifting titles in front of a raucous St Patrick’s weekend crowd after Saturday night’s thrilling 29-16 victory over rivals England.
The 37-year-old also became the Championship’s all-time leading scorer by overtaking former teammate Ronan O’Gara with a total of 566 before Andy Farrell hailed him as Ireland’s greatest player.
A private outing at a sold-out Aviva Stadium was a fitting end to Sexton’s 60th and final championship outing, while in sharp contrast to the finale of his first campaign as captain in 2020, which ended with an angry reaction insult. to be substituted in the loss to France.
The Leinster side, who are due to retire later this year, have hailed manager Farrell’s influence and want the pair to share an even bigger World Cup win this autumn.
“From day one, he put his own stamp on him,” Sexton said of Farrell.
“The best thing about him is that he hasn’t changed a bit from going from assistant to head coach. He’s still very popular even with the lads he doesn’t pick.
“We were able to recover from when I let myself down when I took off against France. That was probably the low point, the real low point.
This is a high point but I hope not the highest point.
“(He’s) a very special coach. When you have, Paul O’Connell and Simon Easterby, Katie (Mike Cat), John Fogarty motivate you during the week, it’s a very special dressing room to be a part of.
“So it’s really all the credit for putting it together and progressing in the World Cup, that’s what we need to focus on now.”
Sexton kicked a penalty and added the extras to two Dan Sheehan tries and Robbie Henshaw scored before limping late on against England.
He jumped for joy after landing the third and final shift but dismissed suggestions that it was a jig.
“That was embarrassing, wasn’t it? I was rocking,” Farrell joked.
“I didn’t dance! I jumped in the air, didn’t I?” said Sexton.
“I’m not a dancer, I can vouch for that. I knew it was a big kick to get three notches straight and that’s why you do all the rehearsals you do, so I was so glad – I didn’t do the dancing though!”.
Jimmy George grabbed a consolation try for England before substitute Rob Herring completed the scoring by touching the ground to claim the bonus point.
Coach Farrell expects his team, which scored a historic win in New Zealand last summer, to be stronger in the opening match of the World Cup against Romania on September 9.
“I just told Johnny there’s a bigger fish to fry than this,” he said.
“We’re a good team that haven’t come close to achieving their potential and I’ve been saying over the past weeks that’s what we strive to do.
“Everyone will get better in the summer.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of time together so we expect our team when we get to the first game of the World Cup to be a lot better than we know it and that’s the reality.”
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