Ireland skipper Sexton eager to end Cardiff Six Nations jinx

·3-min read
Johnny Sexton hopes Ireland can secure their first Six Nations win over Wales in Cardiff since 2013 but avoid ending up second from bottom of the table as they did that year

Johnny Sexton hopes Ireland can end their eight-year wait for a Six Nations win in Cardiff without a repeat of the injury crisis that marred their 2013 triumph when they begin this season's campaign in the Welsh capital on Sunday.

Fly-half Sexton, now the Ireland captain, was a key figure during a 30-22 win over eventual champions Wales.

But that proved to be Ireland's lone win of an injury-blighted Championship that ended with the departure of head coach Declan Kidney.

"Not many teams go there (Cardiff) and get a win," Sexton told a conference call on Wednesday.

"The last time we won there in 2013 we ended up with an injury crisis and finished second last. So this time round I hope we can repeat the win without the ending in terms of the finishing position!

"Everything is geared up for this game as we know how important momentum is in the Championship," he added of a match where Wales will be denied their traditionally raucous home support, with the fixture being played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

- 'The roof tops' -

Sexton, however, stressed Ireland would not be underestimating their opponents, despite Wales having had a very poor Six Nations last year -- they went from being 2019 Grand Slam champions to finishing second from bottom.

"We know deep down that any team can have a bad campaign and turn things round pretty quick," he said.

"If you look at the players they have, Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Davies and others there is so much experience.

"I am sure they will be in good stead come Sunday and for us it is all systems go," explained Sexton, who is confident of his fitness following a "little niggle" playing for Leinster that some observers feared was a recurrence of a more serious hamstring injury.

As to what he wanted to see from Ireland, Sexton said the team needed to be more clinical in their opponents' 22.

Although Ireland finished as joint top try-scorers alongside France, with 17 to their credit, during the 2020 Six Nations, a lack of finishing power during a defeat by the French in their final game helped deny them the title.

"We got inside their 22 on several occasions but we came away with nothing and that cost us dearly," recalled Sexton, who said Ireland "won't be shouting it from the roof tops," when it came to proclaiming their goals for this Six Nations.

Meanwhile, the current skipper believes the introduction of former Ireland captain Paul O'Connell as forwards coach had already had a "great impact" upon the squad.

"I have a massive amount of respect for him, as a team-mate he was one of the best you could ask for," Sexton said.

"He was selfless as a captain, everything he did was with the team in mind and it is the same now as a coach.

"However, there is no point in talking about it, we have to go out and show we are able to put into practice what he said."