Stander slams ‘milking it’ claims after Sexton ‘throw’
CJ STANDER has launched an impassioned defence of “tough guy” Johnny Sexton, insisting Ireland’s premier playmaker would never play-act.
Scotland centre Alex Dunbar was sinbinned for a judo-throw cleanout on Sexton at a ruck as Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash in Dublin descended into a fraught finish.
Scotland’s Peter Horne told referee Pascal Gauzere “he’s milking it” in reaction to Sexton’s nonplussed, theatrical response to being upended by Dunbar.
Ireland won out 35-25 in Dublin on Saturday to finish third in a Six Nations where Sexton has again been battered, bruised and now pilloried – but Stander insists the 30-year-old is anything but a soft touch.
“Johnny always gets marked and it’s tough for a player like that because he always gets the big tackles, the big knocks off the ball,” said Munster flanker Stander. “In rugby, if you have an injury you stay down; if you don’t, you get straight back up.
“I’ve got massive respect for Johnny, he’s a tough guy and a player who would never milk a penalty like that, it’s just not something he’d do. If he has an injury, he’ll sit down and that’s just what happened.”
Sexton was sin-binned himself late on in the game for rucking from the side to deny Scotland quick ball in Ireland’s 22.
Ireland eased home thanks to tries from Stander, Keith Earls, Conor Murray and Devin Toner, with boss Joe Schmidt just about satisfied with third place.
Ireland now face three tough examinations in June in South Africa, where they are yet to win a Test match.
South Africa-born flanker Stander starred for the Springboks under-20s before joining Munster and chasing a Test career with Ireland through residency.
Now ensconced in Schmidt’s side, Stander is perfectly placed to review the challenge of seeking Test victories in his homeland.
“Cape Town with the altitude will be fine but when you go up to the Highveld, the altitude will be tough,” said Stander.
“So your fitness has to be up there. Your lungs are going to burn a bit, they play a physical game and their supporters get behind them. And you need to play your game, keep your head down and be physical. You have to play your game – if they get into your head it’s going to be a long day.” Munster flanker Tommy O’Donnell believes Rory Best should continue as Ireland captain for the summer tour to South Africa, insisting the Ulster hooker hands the team the perfect leadership mix. Best, who assumed the captaincy for the Six Nations after Paul O’Connell’s retirement, guided injury-hit Ireland to third place. “Rory has always been a natural leader in the squad and I’d certainly back him to continue.”
UP AND OVER: Alex Dunbar was sin-binned for this cleanout on Ireland’s Johnny Sexton