Six Nations Championship

Ireland winning Six Nations is a job only half done, says Jonathan Sexton after third title in five years

Grand slam beckons next weekend at Twickenham, and Sexton believes the tournament won’t be complete for the Irish unless they pull it off

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 March, 2018, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 March, 2018, 12:30pm

To Jonathan Sexton, the job isn’t over.

Ireland won a third Six Nations in five years on Saturday after seeing off Scotland 28-8 at Lansdowne Road.

But a grand slam beckons next weekend at Twickenham, and Sexton believes the tournament won’t be complete for the Irish unless they pull off only their third sweep ever.

“It’s very muted upstairs, it’s a very strange feeling to win the championship with a game to go and so much still to play for,” Sexton said.

Only Rory Best and Rob Kearney remain from the last Ireland squad to win the grand slam, in 2009. Best was the backup hooker to Jerry Flannery, while Kearney was the starting fullback in all five matches.

But on the periphery was Sexton. The fly-half made his Irish debut eight months later but was part of that Six Nations squad to learn the ropes and be a practice opponent.

He’s determined he doesn’t squander this rare shot at a grand slam.

“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.”

Ireland wouldn’t have a grand slam shot against England next weekend if Sexton hadn’t kicked a 45-meter dropped goal in the 83rd minute to beat France 15-13 in Paris in the opening round.

He’s been integral to all three of Ireland’s championships since the 2009 grand slam, and knows how hard they are to come by.

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“The young guys probably think they are going to get a lot of opportunities but it doesn’t work like that,” he 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.”