McFadden: ‘First-class’ Sex­ton is too ro­bust

The Herald - Herald Sport - - SIX NATIONS - NICK PURE­WAL

OP­PO­NENTS are wast­ing their time tar­get­ing Ire­land’s “tal­is­man” fly-half Johnny Sex­ton, ac­cord­ing to Fer­gus McFadden.

Sex­ton’s Le­in­ster team-mate McFadden mar­velled at the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions’ play­maker’s abil­ity to shake off big hits and keep on churn­ing out first-class per­for­mances.

Even the usu­ally straight-laced Ser­gio Parisse tried a late hit on Sex­ton as Ire­land swept past Italy 58-15 for their first win of this year’s Six Na­tions.

But in a cam­paign where France again tried to ruf­fle Sex­ton’s feath­ers and Eng­land boss Ed­die Jones sug­gested the out­side-half’s par­ents should worry about his his­tory of con­cus­sions, McFadden hit back to laud Ire­land’s piv­otal per­former.

“Tens can get bashed around a lot in teams and when it’s such a piv­otal po­si­tion guys are al­ways go­ing to tar­get the num­ber 10 jersey,” said McFadden.

“Johnny’s as tough as nails. They keep com­ing and he keeps get­ting up, he was a real tal­is­man for us in that first-half against Italy.

“He doesn’t shy away from it. In a way it plays to his strengths when guys run down his chan­nel be­cause he’s a very phys­i­cal tack­ler and he gets a lot of turnovers him­self.

“We need Johnny to be fully fit for us next week so he can do a job on the Scots.”

Ire­land en­tered the Six Na­tions as de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons but are now fight­ing for a mid-ta­ble fin­ish, a re­turn that boss Joe Sch­midt has long since ac­cepted as rea­son­able given the daunting in­jury count.

The open­ing draw with Wales and de­feats in France and Eng­land dented Ire­land’s con­fi­dence, but for­mer Le­in­ster boss Sch­midt hopes the nine-try thump­ing of Italy will go a long way to ad­dress­ing that is­sue.

Le­in­ster back-rower Josh Van der Flier again proved his vast Test po­ten­tial, with bul­lock­ing Con­nacht lock Ul­tan Dil­lane of­fer­ing an­other hugely promis­ing cameo off the bench.

Ire­land fin­ished Satur­day’s clash with five Con­nacht stars on the field, a re­flec­tion of the prov­ince’s fan­tas­tic Pro12 cam­paign.

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