Rugby Union

Johnny Sexton shows pure class in Canada rout

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Jonny Sexton proved can be the key man for Ireland after a classy performance in a 50-7 World Cup victory over Canada.

Sexton starred and was a cut above his fellow countrymen, as be silenced doubters and critics who made any noise during the warm-up period.

If there were ever any question marks over his capability or his ability to deal with pressure, what better way than to prove people wrong than putting in a man of the match performance in front of 85,000 people on Saturday afternoon.

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From the onset, Sexton looked at ease, he was composed, and he showed that class truly is permanent, storming to 14 of the 56 points in a 60-minute cameo.

You got the feeling that throughout the warm-up games, the Irish were holding back, trying not to show their hand, and it was more than evident.

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The half-backs ran the game with superb efficiency and control, and will have left France, Italy and Romania smarting at the prospect of playing them over the next couple of weeks.

I'm sure that before the game, coach Joe Schmidt will have had a word with the Leinster fly-half and told him to go easy, in order not to pick up a needless injury in what has been an injury-plagued few years for Sexton.

He reminded people that he is the best in the world, he dictated where both teams played the game, he was the start point for all of Ireland's glorious exhibition rugby, and he was only at half pace.

He picked up yet another international try running it in from 40 metres out after some lovely offload work from flanker Sean O'Brien.

He looked relatively comfortable from the tee, missing one conversion which he scuffed wide, but Ireland are still doubted by the media.

It was viewed as a 'mechanical' and 'telegraphed' performance, one that lacked any pace to match Sexton's class vision and territorial play.

Plenty left in the tank

But let's not forget, it was by no means a first string seven in the backs. Despite the half-backs, Jared Payne and Rob Kearney being shoe-ins, there was no room for Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe on the wings and centre Robbie Henshaw is sure to be a starter.

The pace of Bowe and Zebo are sure to be a weapon for the men in green, but wisely (or perhaps unwisely) rested in the 'lesser' games. And the assured combination of Henshaw and Payne gives Ireland that solid platform in midfield.

Next up for Ireland is a trip to Wembley on Sunday, against Romania, who play their first game on Wednesday against France at the Olympic Stadium.

Down to Business

It should be business as usual for Schmidt, O'Connell, Sexton and Co as they bid to qualify as group winners, in a pool that is sure to be decided in Wales against France in a few weeks time.

If the atmosphere at Wembley is anywhere near what it was when 90,000 people watched a nail-biting All Black victory against Argentina, then the big name players in the Ireland side will relish the occasion.

Romania have never beaten Ireland, and the last time the two sides faced off in 2005, Ireland won 43-12. But the Irish will be confident of their chances of replicating their biggest win at the weekend against the Romanians, 60-0 from 1986.

All Healy'd up

Another boost for Ireland as they bid for their first World Cup title, was the return of prop forward Cian Healy, who was greeted by a massive cheer as he returned to the pitch following a nasty neck injury picked up earlier this year.

Ireland could be able to field a full-strength side against Romania, and here is how they could line up:

15 Rob Kearney 14 Tommy Bowe 13 Jared Payne 12 Robbie Henshaw 11 Simon Zebo 10 Jonny Sexton 9 Conor Murray; 1 Cian Healy 2 Rory Best 3 Mike Ross 4 Devin Toner 5 Paul O'Connell (C) 6 Peter O'Mahony 7 Sean O'Brien 8 Jamie Heaslip

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Topics:
Rugby Union
Ireland Rugby
Jonny Sexton
IRB Rugby World Cup

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