Rugby World Cup: Jonathan Sexton, the Irish guide

Jonathan Sexton played his last international competition for Ireland. A true legend, he is preparing to face South Africa on Saturday, September 23 at the Stade de France. The Irish people like to imagine that he will take his team to the world title. Ireland, which has participated in the World Cup since its inception in 1987, has never progressed beyond the quarter-finals.

Jonathan Sexton during the match between Ireland and Tonga, September 16, 2023. AFP - LOIC VENANCE

By: Farid Achache Follow


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On the eve of the South Africa-Ireland clash, one can easily imagine the fervour and discussions around the XV of the Clover, in the famous Temple Bar area in Dublin, where the evenings are copiously watered as the weekend approaches. And Dubliners, between two sips of beer, will have only one name in their mouths, that of... Sexton.

If Jonathan Sexton takes his team to the world title, he could well have his statue in the streets of Dublin, as well as that of the writer James Joyce, one of the major writers that the Irish capital has known, and which sits on North Earl Street.

Ireland's all-time top scorer

The opener of the XV du Trèfle had his first selection in November 2009. Since then, he has had control over the post. Against Tonga, for Ireland's second outing in this 2023 World Cup (Saturday, September 16), the brain of the Irish offensive animation became the best scorer in the history of the Irish team. With 1,090 points scored, he broke Ronan O'Gara's record (1,083). "My son will definitely be happier than me. I'm proud, but it's just a new record that will be broken one day. We'll focus on the next game. We spent the summer training like crazy, but the good thing is that now we have the legs to create the chances and go on trial as soon as we can. But we still have a lot of things to work on," Johnny Sexton said after his record.

With two tries and 24 points without force: Jonathan Sexton, absent from the field for nearly six months, had managed his return against a weak Romania (82-8) on September 9 in Bordeaux. "Against South Africa, I'll really know if I'm in good shape," the captain agreed. After such a long absence, the veteran admitted Thursday to feel "a little nervousness" before returning to the field. At 38, with 114 caps, Sexton is the oldest player to wear the Irish shirt. Sexton and the Clover XV finally dream of breaking the glass ceiling of the quarter-finals.

Looking for a sixteenth consecutive victory

For the match against South Africa, third meeting in the group stages, Ireland coach Andy Farrell has renewed his team-type. "We needed continuity and we needed a team that could face the world champions," he said.

The entry of scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, who brings "pace" according to Farrell, in place of Conor Murray, is the only change from the starting XV of the victory against Tonga (59-16). As expected, the English coach of the Clover XV has fielded his strongest team to face the Springboks, with the key to first place in Pool B.

Sexton, who is coming off two good matches against Romania and Tonga, will once again be at the helm, looking for a sixteenth consecutive victory. We could have considered that he would be spared by the staff for this match in which he should be targeted by the Boks.

The Irish playmaker had won the grand slam to conclude his history with the Six Nations Tournament at the beginning of the year, becoming on the same occasion the best director in the history of the competition, ahead of Ronan O'Gara. His ultimate challenge remains the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Ireland: Keenan - Hansen, Ringrose, Aki, Lowe - (o) Sexton, (m) Gibson-Park - Van der Flier, Doris, O'Mahony - Ryan, Beirne - Furlong, Kelleher, Porter

Replacements: Sheehan, Kylcoyne, Bealham, Henderson, Baird, Murray, Crowley, Henshaw

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  • Rugby World Cup 2023
  • Ireland
  • Rugby