Johnny Sexton hopes the childhood dream of captaining Ireland rugby to grand slam glory in Dublin does not prove to be the pinnacle of his career as he turns his attention to a crack at becoming a world champion.
Fly-half Sexton enjoyed an unforgettable Guinness Six Nations swansong by lifting silverware in front of a raucous St Patrick’s weekend crowd following Saturday evening’s thrilling 29-16 success over rivals England.
The 37-year-old also became the championship’s outright all-time leading points scorer by surpassing former team-mate Ronan O’Gara with a total of 566 before being hailed by Andy Farrell as Ireland’s greatest player.
A special outing at a sold-out Aviva Stadium was a fitting end to Sexton’s 60th and last outing in the championship, while being in sharp contrast to the finale of his first campaign as skipper in 2020, which ended with the ignominy of him reacting angrily to being substituted in defeat to France.
The Leinster fly-half, who is set to retire later this year, praised the impact of head coach Farrell and wants the pair to share an even greater triumph at this autumn’s World Cup.
“Since day one, he’s put his own stamp on it,” Sexton said of Farrell. “The best thing about him is he hasn’t changed one bit from going to assistant to head coach. He’s still very popular even with the lads he doesn’t pick.
“We’ve been able to bounce back from when I let myself down when I got taken off against France. That was probably the low point, the real low point.
“And this is a high point but I hope it’s not the highest point.
“(He’s) a very special coach. When you have him, Paul O’Connell and Simon Easterby, Catty (Mike Catt), John Fogarty motivating you during the week, it’s a pretty special dressing room to be a part of.
“So all credit to him really for putting it together and roll on the World Cup, that’s what we need to focus on now.”
Sexton kicked a penalty and added the extras to two Dan Sheehan tries and a Robbie Henshaw score before limping off late on against England.
He jumped for joy after landing his third and final conversion but dismissed suggestions it was a dance.
“It was embarrassing that, wasn’t it? I was cringing,” joked Farrell.
Sexton said: “I didn’t do a dance! I jumped in the air, no?
“I’m not a dancer, I can confirm that. I knew it was a big kick to go three scores clear and that’s why you do all the practice that you do, so I was absolutely delighted – I didn’t do a dance though!”.
Jamie George grabbed a consolation try for England before replacement Rob Herring completed the scoring by touching down to claim the bonus point.
Coach Farrell expects his side, who claimed a landmark series win in New Zealand last summer, to be even stronger come their opening World Cup fixture, against Romania on 9 September.
“I’ve just been saying to Johnny that there are bigger fish to fry than this,” he said.
“We’re a good side that’s nowhere near reached its potential and I’ve kept saying over the last weeks that that’s what we’re striving to do.
“Everyone is going to get better in the summer.
“We get to spend a lot more time together so we expect our side when we get to the first game of the World Cup to be a lot better than we are know and that’s the reality.”
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