Morning Chronicle - Sexton's Ireland have a lot to 'brush up on' before France trip despite Wales win

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Sexton's Ireland have a lot to 'brush up on' before France trip despite Wales win
Sexton's Ireland have a lot to 'brush up on' before France trip despite Wales win

Sexton's Ireland have a lot to 'brush up on' before France trip despite Wales win

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton said on Saturday there is a lot to "brush up on" for next weekend's tricky Six Nations visit to France despite their impressive bonus point win over champions Wales.

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The 36-year-old skipper added, though, it was wonderful to have a contrasting feeling -- after the 29-7 victory -- from the "demoralised" one after last year's opening defeat to Wales.

Ireland will head to Paris bidding for a 10th successive Test victory but the French capital is a place where they have rarely tasted victory during Sexton's stellar and long career.

Les Bleus have been a revived force under Fabien Galthie and finished runners-up in the Six Nations in the past two championships -- they open their campaign at home to Italy on Sunday.

"The win and the bonus point are super," Sexton said at the post-match press conference.

"I cannot tell you how demoralising it was last year to go back and sit in the dressing room with nothing to show for our efforts (they lost 21-16 having played for 66 minutes with 14 men due to Peter O'Mahony being sent off).

"The Triple Crown had gone as had the Grand Slam.

"There is stuff from today we can be pleased about but plenty to brush up for next week as France away is one of the biggest tests you have in rugby and we need to improve."

Sexton, who made two superb conversions in the second-half for tries by Andrew Conway from the touchline in blustery conditions -- said the run of nine victories bolstered confidence.

"We have always been confident we could turn things round and the results are witness to that," said Sexton.

"I am confident in the group and that if we play our very best we will win.

"We have to make sure we sharpen up this week in training and then put our best performance out there and hope that is good enough."

- 'More edge to us' -

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell agreed there were things to work on but the scoreline did not reflect how tough the game had been.

"It was a tough task, ask these guys they are pretty sore," he said.

"Wales made it pretty hard work so fair dues to the players for sticking to their convictions.

"As a hit out for the France game it was perfect for us as some of the lads have not played a big game in a long while.

"We now have a seven-day turnaround and we must make sure we recover properly."

Farrell said the most satisfying things from the Wales match were the discipline -- the Irish did not concede a penalty until the second-half -- and their defence.

They came close to holding Wales scoreless -- which would have been the first time since Australia did so in 2007 and last time the Ireland did was in the 1970 Five Nations game -- and Farrell was miffed that a loose passage of play allowed the visitors to score close to full-time.

"That passage of play it seemed we were trying to keep playing for the sake of it," said Farrell.

"I do not think we managed that part well but our defence is something we pride ourselves on and that was the best part of our game by a country mile today."

For Wales skipper Dan Biggar it was a disappointing result on his first Test as captain, with Alun Wyn Jones absent through injury.

"We are better than that and we know we are," said Biggar.

"It was a frustrating afternoon. If you do not match Ireland in winning collisions then it is going to be a hard afternoon.

"With physicality and discipline there are not a huge amount of things to get right.

"I enjoyed it (the captaincy) from the point of view to lead the team out.

"I was really proud."