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15th Oct 2023

Well-intentioned press conference question draws emotional Johnny Sexton response

Patrick McCarry

Johnny Sexton

“I’ll be sitting in the stand, having a pint like you lads.”

For Ireland, another World Cup journey ends at the last eight. Many of the squad will strive for another crack, in 2027. For Johnny Sexton, Keith Earls, and others, this was the last goodbye.

A revved up and well-drilled All Blacks side defeated Ireland 28-24 in the World Cup quarter final, and made it 10 tournaments in a row with a last four that does not involve the men in green. That result will sting but, clutching a positive, it was the closest any Ireland side has come in 32 years. Had Rónan Kelleher not been held up over the tryline by a brave Jordie Barrett tackle, it could have been a different story.

Could have, would have, should have. When it is all said and done, Ireland leave with regrets while the World Cup party rages on. Once again, the Southern Hemisphere is written off before biting back when it really counts.

Johnny Sexton was tearful and wistful in his post-match interview, on the Stade de France pitch, but he collected himself by the time the press conference rolled around. That was until a well-intentioned question set him off again.

Johnny Sexton and his message to Irish fans

Both Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton spoke well in what was their final press conference of the 2023 World Cup. Farrell lamented “fine margins” but refused to criticise Wayne Barnes over some scrummaging penalties, while both paid due credit to New Zealand.

Near the end of their 15 minute briefing, with Sexton holding it together until this point, the Ireland captain was asked, “What is your message to the Irish supporters, and the country?”

Rubbing his chin and take a beat, while he rotated an unopened water both in his hands, Sexton replied:

“Well… Thank you. Eh… yeah. How can you be prouder to be Irish when you see what’s happened over the last six weeks really? We get behind the team like no other, it’s incredible and it’s not wasted on us.

“That’s why it is so hard to take really, that we didn’t give them another couple of weekends. But, as Faz said, it’s small margins. That’s sport; that’s life.

“This group will bounce back. They’re an incredible group, led by the man beside me. The best group I have ever been a part of, bar none. These guys they will go on and achieve great things, and I’ll be sitting in the stand, having a pint like you lads.”

“Shouting at them,” joked Farrell. “That’s what he’ll be doing.”

It was as Farrell made that remark that the finality of it all seemed to hit Sexton. He put a hand over his face as he sniffed back the tears and rubbed his eyes.

Johnny SextonCredit: World Rugby

This is the end for Johnny Sexton.

It is not the end he wanted, but the curtain has come down after a quite incredible career.

The man himself put it better than we could when he observed, “You’ve got to work hard for fairytale endings and we didn’t get it but that’s life.”


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