Six Nations 2021: Ireland set the standard with Six Nations win over England - Sexton

By Sports Desk March 20, 2021

Ireland set the standard for future performances in wrapping up their Six Nations campaign with a 32-18 win over England, according to captain Johnny Sexton.

First-half tries from Keith Earls and Jack Conan - along with 22 points from the boot of Sexton - helped Andy Farrell's side claim a convincing victory in Dublin.

Ireland's place in the standings will only be decided when France meet Scotland in the tournament's final fixture next week.

But, whether he and his team-mates are leapfrogged in second place or not, Sexton had one major positive to take from the 2021 Six Nations.

He told ITV: "It was brilliant. We felt like we weren't far away all through the championship and it kind of clicked in some things.

"There's still lots of stuff we can improve on and get better, but that was the performance we wanted against a top-quality side. 

"[England are] one of the best sides in the world, who we have massive respect for - their players, their coaches, everyone - so that's the standard we've set now and hopefully we can keep backing it up and become more consistent. 

"I said to the boys last night that the only worry we should have is about backing up today and we put in a performance that will make us think twice about some of the standards that we set in that game."

England added an arguably undeserved hint of respectability to the scoreline as they ran in late tries through Ben Youngs and Jonny May following Bundee Aki's dismissal just past the hour mark.

Sexton believes that sort of indiscipline had hampered Ireland throughout the tournament, and called for it to be eradicated.

He added: "We still felt we should have stopped the try - a missed tackle - but we showed great guts throughout the tournament. 

"Sometimes when you don't take your chances, your performances are made out to be worse than they actually are. 

"The first game, we go down to 14, and indiscipline is still an issue at times. And against France, small margins, all these games. 

"Both of these teams could have been going for a championship today or a Grand Slam so they are the margins we have to make up next time we come together."

England put their points on the board through two Owen Farrell penalties - the second of which brought up his 500th Six Nations point - early in the first half and that late flurry of tries.

That left flanker Tom Curry rueing a failure to compete with Ireland in the "middle section" of the game.

"I'm obviously very disappointed. It's pretty gutting," he said.

"We knew it was going to be a really physical encounter. The past three times we have played them it has been all about physicality and today was no different.

"A bit of discipline cost us here and there. In the last 20 we showed a bit more of a glimpse of what we're about.

"It was that middle section where we need to back it up and we probably didn't do that today."

Related items

  • Richard Wigglesworth insists England must keep a cool head after Scotland defeat Richard Wigglesworth insists England must keep a cool head after Scotland defeat

    England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth insists it is a time for cool heads in their aftermath of their dismal 31-20 Six Nations defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

    Wigglesworth is central to what England head coach Steve Borthwick promised would comprise a “thorough and honest” review of the performance as they brace for their next clash with Ireland a week on Saturday.

    But speaking in York where the squad has gathered ahead of sold-out training session at the LNER Stadium on Friday night, Wigglesworth is adamant that frustration about a performance littered with “basic errors” will not be allowed to boil over.

    “If it was needed, anyone who knows me will know I can be pretty straight and to the point,” said Wigglesworth, who made 33 England appearances before moving into coaching in 2019.

    “But I think you have a very limited lifespan if you are going to stand and bang a TV and call things out, because there will be reasons, mine as much as any players.

    “If I start shouting and having a go at them, that’s right back at me. We’ll be in this again and make sure we’re better.”

    Wigglesworth reiterated the tentatively positive prognosis on half-backs Marcus Smith and Alex Mitchell as they target being available for the daunting clash against the favourites for back-to-back Grand Slams.

    Smith has missed England’s last three matches with a calf injury while Mitchell started in wins over Italy and Wales but missed the Scotland defeat after picking up a knee injury in training.

    “We’re going to have to see what they get through this week,” added Wigglesworth.

    “We’re hopeful, but we’ve not done anything yet in terms of seeing if they could be involved in a Test match. Tomorrow (Friday) will be a big day for them. Then we’ll see how they go at the start of next week but we’re hopeful.”

    In the meantime Wigglesworth will work with the squad on ironing out the issues which cost them dear against the Scots.

    “We didn’t really play as us,” he added. “We didn’t play how we set out to and how we’d been building to, so that was the disappointment for everyone.

    “There were signs from early on that we weren’t attacking the line. We were passing early away from the line and not challenging the defence. Then we made basic errors on the back of doing things we hadn’t done in the previous couple of weeks.

    “We looked slightly tense and maybe we got more tense as things went on. It is hard to learn from errors when we are not attacking as we want to, but our mindset is that if it doesn’t go right then we will improve and take the lessons.”

  • Warren Gatland says criticism of Wales infrastructure does not include coaches Warren Gatland says criticism of Wales infrastructure does not include coaches

    Warren Gatland says that comments he made about Welsh professional rugby’s infrastructure were not a criticism of coaches.

    Wales boss Gatland said ahead of last weekend’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Ireland that the Welsh regional game sometimes felt like “a sinking ship” and he was not 100 per cent convinced that a reset of it would happen.

    Ospreys head coach Toby Booth responded by claiming that some of Gatland’s comments were “a bit inflammatory”, while Dragons boss Dai Flanagan met Gatland on Wednesday.

    Gatland had been asked during a press conference to assess key differences between Irish and Welsh rugby and he said that Ireland “have just got the right structures in place”.

    Gatland also urged Wales’ four regional teams – Ospreys, Cardiff, Scarlets and Dragons – to focus on improving infrastructure such as facilities, rather than prioritise signing players.

    “What I was highlighting was the importance of us, for the next 10 years if we want success and sustainability, having the best facilities and the best support staff, whether that is coaches, medical staff, strength and conditioning,” Gatland told reporters on Thursday, as Wales prepared for next week’s Six Nations appointment with France.

    “Probably the difference between us and Ireland at the moment is they have got their systems and structures in place and we’ve got a little bit of a way to go.

    “It wasn’t a criticism of coaches. I know how hard they are working in terms of the regions, and how hard they are trying.

    “It wasn’t a criticism of them, it is about all of us working together to keep improving the things we’ve got here.

    “Probably all of the regions, if they look at their structure and their support staff, they have probably got a couple of holes and things that they are working to hopefully put right for the future.

    “I keep saying that the impact of the right environment, the right people and the right facilities will have so much more of an impact for us long-term than one or two players will do in a squad.

    “The pleasing thing for me is that it has raised discussion. At least people are talking about it. My concern was if we don’t talk about it and focus on these areas, we will carry on doing what we’ve been doing for years and having the same results.

    “I have always tried to be honest. I’ve always tried to give an honest answer or an opinion. It doesn’t always mean I am right.”

    Wales will resume their Six Nations campaign against France after successive losses to Scotland, England and Ireland, with Italy following Les Bleus to Cardiff on the tournament’s final weekend.

    It is feasible that Wales could end up finishing fifth for a fourth time in the last five seasons, while they last propped up the Six Nations table without a win 21 years ago when Gatland’s fellow New Zealander Steve Hansen was in charge.

    “Test match rugby is all about winning, it is all about performing,” Gatland said.

    “A couple of close games (Wales lost to Scotland and England by a combined total of three points) where we showed some promise, and then we came up against probably the best team in the world at the moment.

    “We’ve got an opportunity in the next couple of games to go out there, keep working hard and improving. Hopefully, the next two games we can come away with wins.”

    While Wales have have yet to register a Six Nations victory, France were well beaten at home by title favourites Ireland on the opening day and then held 13-13 by Italy in Lille.

    Gatland added: “In fairness to Italy, they stayed in the fight.

    “There is no doubt that the red card (for France centre Jonathan Danty) had a significant influence on the game, and then Italy got stronger.

    “They (France) are going to come pretty hard at you early on, so you have got to stay in that battle and try and negate that physical dominance of their forwards, the huge size that they have.”

  • England are definitely capable of causing problems – Ireland’s Mike Catt England are definitely capable of causing problems – Ireland’s Mike Catt

    Mike Catt believes “dangerous” England possess the personnel to damage Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations title pursuit but suggested it may take time for Steve Borthwick to fully make his mark at Twickenham.

    Andy Farrell’s reigning champions travel to south-west London on Saturday, March 9 seeking to remain on course for back-to-back Grand Slams following wins over France, Italy and Wales.

    Despite finishing third at last year’s Rugby World Cup, England have failed to wholly convince since head coach Borthwick replaced Eddie Jones in December 2022 and are fighting to stay in championship contention on the back of a 30-21 Calcutta Cup loss to Scotland.

    Asked if the Red Rose have improved in the post-Jones era, Ireland assistant coach Catt told a press conference: “That’s not for me to say, to be honest.

    “Doing the job, especially from an attacking point of view, does take time. It’s a tough one to get (right), especially when you’re at the top end of the sport.

    “The individuals that are there are definitely capable of causing teams (problems).

    “They were third at the World Cup and they’re still all there, barring Owen Farrell, but everyone else is there and they’re well capable.

    “It is tough at that level but they’ll keep ticking along, I’ve no doubt.

    “This England side are a dangerous side, we know they’re capable of doing things.

    “It’s making sure we take the next step and the next step is England at Twickenham. It’s all we’re going to focus on at the moment.”

    Ireland have taken maximum points from their first three fixtures but were below their ruthless best in Dublin wins over Italy and Wales after beginning with a statement success away to France.

    Catt is confident the team will be firing on all cylinders in round four after they “went through the motions” to dispatch Warren Gatland’s men 31-7.

    “We’ve had a review of the Wales game and it wasn’t perfect by any means,” said Catt.

    “We’ve really realised what we need to do now over the next 10 days to prepare properly for England.

    “We went away from what we are really, really good at against Wales.

    “It’s something that we’ve addressed and need to make sure we get right.

    “We just went through the motions a little bit rather than implementing the way we wanted to play, and it was a bit disappointing in certain aspects of the game.

    “But we addressed it and it’s something we have to get right for England, so we will.”

    Centre Garry Ringrose took part in Thursday’s open training session at the Aviva Stadium after missing the opening three rounds of the championship with a shoulder issue.

    Full-back Hugo Keenan trained separately from the team as he overcomes the knee problem which kept him out of the Wales win, while back-rower Ryan Baird (back spasm) and prop Oli Jager (knee) were not involved.

    “Garry and Hugo are the main two that are coming through nicely, so we’ll see how the weekend progresses,” said Catt.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.