- Attack coach says Sexton makes the side tick, but England must stop the whole team
- Farrell calls for controlled emotion from England in Dublin
Ireland’s 10, 12, 13 axis is one of the most venerable units in world rugby. Inside centre Gordon D'Arcy and outside centre Brian O’Driscoll have played more games alongside each other than any other international midfield pairing. Separate them and in D’Arcy you have a two-time Lions tourist with 75 Ireland caps; while O’Driscoll has scored 245 points, won three RBS 6 Nations player of the tournament titles and redefined modern centre play during his 13-year international career.
But it is 27-year-old fly half Jonathan Sexton who Andy Farrell yesterday picked out as the piston at the heart of the Irish engine. To stop Ireland, he says, you must stop Sexton; but to stop Sexton you must stifle the entire Irish team.
Photo: Getty Images
“Jonny’s a great player,” said Farrell. “He’s learned his trade fantastically well, he came on leaps and bounds from his early 20s and he’s now dictating how things go for Ireland.
“But we can’t just concentrate on Jonny. He pulls the strings for them, obviously, but he pulls the strings because people are doing as they’re told and any 10 that plays on front-foot ball is going to have an armchair ride. So its not just about stopping Jonny Sexton, it’s a matter of making sure that we concentrate on the whole job.”
With the two teams trading hefty home wins in the last two RBS 6 Nations and with 138 years of history to the fixture, getting the job done against Ireland demands the deftest of balance between head and heart. A fact that has been front of mind for the squad during their preparations this week.
Photo: Getty Images
“[Because of] the history and the rivalry between the two teams everyone realises its going to be a top class affair and we’re going to be ready for that like we were last week and the game before that. You’ve got to have controlled emotion.
"You need emotion within yourself to rise to the occasion, that’s the adrenaline side of it, but also you’ve got to be cool in your head and we’re getting better at that. That’s what international football is about, transferring what you do on the training field and making sire you do it in the white hot atmosphere that’s going to be here [at the Aviva stadium].”