Johnny Sexton says Ireland must seize Grand Slam chance
By Michael Kelleher
Last Updated: 11/03/18 12:12am
Johnny Sexton says there is a sense of urgency among Ireland's senior players to seize a rare opportunity to achieve a Grand Slam by beating England at Twickenham next week.
Ireland clinched their third Six Nations title in five years on Saturday when they defeated Scotland 28-8 and England lost 22-16 to France in Paris.
It sets the stage for Ireland to win just the third Grand Slam in their history against England at Twickenham on St Patrick's Day, and Sexton knows it is not an opportunity to be taken lightly.
"The young guys probably think they are going to get a lot of opportunities but it doesn't work like that," Sexton said.
"I remember playing Scotland in Croke Park for a triple crown (in 2010) and almost taking it for granted - and I still haven't won a triple crown."
Only Rory Best and Rob Kearney remain from the last Ireland squad to win the Grand Slam, in 2009. Best was the back-up hooker to Jerry Flannery, while Kearney started at full-back in all five matches.
Sexton would not make his Ireland debut until eight months later but was part of that Six Nations squad to learn the ropes and be a practice opponent.
Instead it was Ronan O'Gara who took centre stage with a clutch drop goal against Wales in Cardiff to seal the victory which clinched the Grand Slam.
Nine years on and Sexton is very much the man for Ireland. It was his dramatic 45-metre drop goal in the 83rd minute against France in the opening round which has put Ireland in this position.
Aged 32, Sexton knows he is far from guaranteed to have this chance again if Ireland fail to hand England their first defeat under Eddie Jones at Twickenham.
"You've got to take these opportunities with both hands when they come," he said.
"(Coach) Declan Kidney said I was just as much a part of it as everyone else back in 2009 when I was in the bibs. I definitely didn't feel that way.
"Around those times, Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara ... they'd been trying to achieve that for 10 years. You could tell by their speeches and their actions that season how much it meant to them.
"It's very similar now: I know Rory is desperate for a Grand Slam because he feels he would be a bigger part of it than he played back then."