Toby Flood: Sexton can make himself at home in Irish shirt

Six Nations Notebook

Friday 26 February 2010 01:00

Ireland may have been disappointed by their performance against France, but they are still one of the best in the tournament. Jonathan Sexton for Ronan O'Gara is a big change. Sexton has been playing some great stuff, but when someone has had the shirt for so long it is difficult for a newcomer to take over. They will always be judged on what has gone before; Ronan did that, or Ronan wouldn't have done that. Great internationals leave a legacy but your challenge is to make one of your own. All you can do is take care of yourself.

The advantage Sexton has is having Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy outside him. They all know each other's game so well from Leinster. O'Driscoll and D'Arcy have such a feel for the game, that ability to drift dangerously across the line and find the gaps. They are still one of the best centre pairings in the world and whoever controls the midfield battle at Twickenham on Saturday will go a long way to winning the game. O'Driscoll has been at the top of the game for about 10 years which is some achievement. He's such a strong – and quick – thinker about the game, not the quickest but a really astute reader of a situation.

As for England, what has been written about the team does not have much of an impact. It doesn't irritate me – people always have their own opinions and they are always going to clash. But two wins out of two; who wouldn't have bitten your hand off for that at the start of the tournament?

It was job done in Rome. That's all. We were not as clinical as we should have been and we blew a few opportunities. The mood in the dressing room was a mixture of fundamental pleasure at the win mixed with disappointment at the manner of it. There was a lot of kicking and that is never inspiring.

But, and this is what it always comes down to, we are professionals and our first duty is to win.

Living and breathing England

Give or take the odd break, during the RBS Six Nations, we're away from home for eight weeks – away from reality in some ways – all living and working together at the hotel, training pitch and stadium. When I was first involved with England two or three years ago, there seemed to be a lot more coming and going in the squad, but now it feels more settled. Gradually you become more at ease – and understand how to deal with everyone's differences, on and off the pitch. You have to immerse yourself in it all, whether you're starting or on the bench, otherwise it can be a long time to be away.

Bench is uncomfortable place

Sitting on the bench as an unused sub is one of the hardest things to do. You have to make sure it does not become disheartening. That's the whole thing about being part of a squad; if you start being selfish it is to the detriment of the squad. If you sit in a hole and sulk it will have an effect on the way you train and the way the rest of the team, your peers, perceive you.

Still, it was good to get back to Leicester and play a game last week. To start with you're trying to get the calls right and not muddle the club ones up with England. I did not feel any pressure at all, although it was really frustrating to have to move from 10 to 12 after we picked up an injury. But as a rugby player you cannot underestimate the benefit of actually getting back out on the pitch and playing. I've really missed not playing, you get this pent up energy that training on its own can't satisfy.

Give Danny credit for brave move

I can't help admiring Danny Cipriani's decision to move to Melbourne, and I'm sure he will have a great time out there, both as a place to play rugby and to live. He is a huge talent who is maybe not playing at his best at the moment. But he knows what he wants to achieve and how he can best get there. It is a brave call – good luck to him.

Toby Flood and The Independent are supporting RBS RugbyForce, the scheme that can help your club to improve its facilities. To register for the RBS RugbyForce weekend on 5-6 June, visit

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