Ireland seeking perfect 10 in Paris without Sexton

Published Categorised as France Men, International Rugby Men, Ireland Men, Six Nations Tagged , , , , , ,
Ireland Rugby Captains Run, Stade de France, Paris, France 11/2/2022Joey CarberyMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

When you receive a text message from your teenage son during school time, it is usually something to be concerned about.

The one to me on Thursday morning simply read ‘no sexton’.

Richard Mulligan reports.

It was probably the two words most used as news filtered out that Ireland would be without a key figure for their assault on France in round two of the Guinness Six Nations.

It is a body blow for Andy Farrell as the Irish and Les Bleus go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon in the French capital in what many see as this season’s Six Nations title decider.

There is no doubt the absence of Sexton – due to a hamstring issue – does perhaps edge the French higher in the favourites tag.

But the French would have been building a plan around combating Sexton’s influence, and Fabien Galthie admitted even he was taken by surprise that there was ‘non sexton’.

And so the focus is now on Joey Carberry, given the nod ahead of Jack Carty who is on the bench.

Remarkably it is the 26-year-old flyhalf’s first start in a Six Nations game! 

And what a time to be doing it in the cauldron of the Stade de France with everything at stake.

Farrell looks at the situation as a chance to develop the group further.

And with two group games and a potential quarter-final against France at next year’s Rugby World Cup to be played in Stade de France, then this opportunity for Carberry has to be seen as a positive.

Farrell said: “We’re not just one player, it never has been, it never will be, and we want to grow as a group and we make sure we approach every game in that manner anyway.

While Sexton’s loss is considered a blow, on the up side, Farrell was able to have centre Robbie Henshaw and lock Iain Henderson available for selection.

They are on the bench which speaks volumes about the culture change Farrell has brought to the Irish camp – it would have been too easy to slot both into the starting team given the massive experience they have.

Farrell has stuck with those players which secured the bonus point in Dublin against Wales last week.

France have made two changes to the starting XV which recovered from a slow start to defeat Italy 37-10 last weekend.

Centre Yoram Moefana will make his first championship start in place of the injured Jonathan Danty, while Francois Cros replaces Dylan Cretin in the back row.

Ireland are on a great run of nine straight victories, but this challenge is one of the biggest they have faced since beating New Zealand in November.

Ireland are seeking a 10th consecutive win and Galthie is braced for a major test.

Galthie said: “It will be a solid match for us, Ireland arrive with a good run of victories, with the status of European number one and third in the world, therefore they are the best European adversary at the moment.

Our opponent is hugely admired by followers of rugby therefore all that obliges us to have the will power and the belief to raise our levels in all respects”.

And the enormity of the game is not lost on Farrell either.

I’m expecting both sides to up it a notch or two,” he said. “Rightly so, everyone is billing this up to be a big game.”

Head to Head

France have won the last two games between the sides, but Ireland had won back-to-back games prior to that, including the famous last gasp drop goal from Sexton in 2018 which set Ireland on their way to the Grand Slam! 

LINE-UPS

France: Jaminet; Penaud, Fickou, Moefana, Villiere; Ntamack, Dupont; Baille, Marchand, Atonio; Woki, Willemse; Cros, Jelonch, Alldritt. Replacements: Mauvaka, Gros, Bamba, Taofifenua, Flament, Cretin, Lucu, Ramos,

Ireland: Keenan; Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Hansen; Carbery, Gibson-Park; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong; Beirne, Ryan (c); Doris, van der Flier, Conan. Replacements: Sheehan, Healy, Bealham, Henderson, O’Mahony, Murray, Carty, Henshaw

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