Irish captain Johnny Sexton feels he has let himself down over his reaction to being substituted at the end of the Guinness Six Nations loss to France and has since apologized to the head coach Andy Farrell.
The instrumental half-ball was visibly annoyed at being replaced by Ross Byrne in the final quarter of his side’s 35-27 loss to Stade de France on Saturday, repeatedly shaking his head in a prolonged turf movement.
As Farrell moved on, ‘100%’ agreeing that the problem is a storm in a teacup after nominating his team for the upcoming Fall Nations Cup, a contrite Sexton admitted it was. “A low point” in his career.
Sexton feels his response to his elimination was as much about disappointment with his team’s performance, but admitted it shouldn’t have happened.
He said, “You have to take it from my point of view, it’s in the heat of the moment, I’m in one of the biggest games I’ve played as a captain. It’s a low point and I reacted badly in a split second and that’s it.
“I spoke to Andy after the game and again on Sunday when I realized it was such a big thing and we worked things out. I apologized and said ‘it shouldn’t have happened, it happened, it was a split second’.
“I let myself down in this regard, but you learn and move on. It’s not the first excuse I’ve made in my career, and it probably won’t be the last. Fortunately, we have a good relationship and there is no problem in the future.
Farrell, who recruited from the uncapped line James Lowe, Billy Burns and Shane Daly for Ireland’s games against Wales on November 13, England on November 21 and Georgia on November 29, has been philosophical speaking of Sexton.
Farrell said at a press conference: “The last thing I want to do to Jonny is stop him from being himself or we all suffer.
“Jonny is a passionate guy and that’s why we all love him as a player at the top of the Irish game. I don’t feel undermined and neither do the team.
“You are not going to change a person overnight who has been at the top doing what they did because of the intention and the attitude they have.
Born in New Zealand, Lowe received his first call-up in Ireland after completing a three-year residency period with Leinster and could bow out internationally against Wales.
Farrell said of the winger: “I’m as keen as everyone else to see how he’s playing internationally. It’s a different level, but we saw the potential of what he showed in the PRO14 and how he fitted into Leinster.
“We will see if this transfers to the international scene. If you were a bettor you would be very excited to see him play and do well.
Keith Earls is coming back from injury, but there is no room in the squad for John Cooney despite being included as a cover against France.
British and Irish Lions mainstay Tadhg Furlong is among many players sidelined due to injury, with Ryan Baird, Dave Kilcoyne, Ringrose, Jordan Larmour and Will Addison also missing.
Looking ahead to the next few weeks, Sexton said: “Every time you play for Ireland you want to win and play well. There will always be pressure on us to win.
“I can’t wait to see the campaign ahead and ultimately we have to improve.
“We’re a new team, we finished third in the Six Nations and that’s probably a true reflection of our performance.