Stander slams ‘milk­ing it’ claims af­ter Sex­ton ‘throw’

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

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

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