“It doesn’t get any better than this.”
The new Netflix rugby documentary, Six Nations: Full Contact, is out now, and Johnny Sexton comes to the fore in the final episode.
Ireland are featured prominently in episodes three and eight of the eight-episodes series, which revolves around the 2023 Six Nations championship. Scotland and Italy look to have granted the most access to Netflix cameras, but Irish rugby fans will see Andy Farrell, Johnny Sexton, Andrew Porter and Josh van der Flier all interviewed.
The series, like the championship itself, culminates with ‘Super Saturday’, which fell on March 18, last year. Ireland were well set for the title after winning their first four games, but still needed to put a wounded English side to the sword to claim the title and, with it, Grand Slam.
As we know now, that first half at Aviva Stadium was extremely tense. Presented with the opportunity to win a Grand Slam in Dublin for the first time, Ireland were nervy and not their usual, clinical selves. They were 10-6 up, just before half-time, when England fullback Freddie Steward was red-carded for a collision with Hugo Keenan [that red card was later down-graded to yellow, but too late to help England].
The Nerflix cameras and microphones were allowed into the Ireland and England dressing rooms for that championship decider, and they picked up a rousing Sexton speech in what was his last ever Six Nations game.
JAMES DOWNEY & LINDSAY PEAT ON HOUSE OF RUGBY
Johnny Sexton’s final Six Nations team-talk
The Netflix cameras switch from the English ‘Away’ dressing room, at Aviva Stadium, where a distraught Freddie Steward is consoled by his teammates.
The episode then switches back to the ‘Home’ dressing room as Johnny Sexton focuses, then rallies, the troops. The Ireland captain comments:
“We’ve been in this position before, boys, where we’ve had an average first half. We’ve f***ing gone out and we’ve fixed f***ing problems. That’s all the f***ing work we’ve put into the last three years, in terms of our mental f***ing skills. Okay?
“We start again. We just keep winning moment after moment.”
We then jump to the French press conference, featuring Antoine Dupont and Fabien Galthie, after their 41-28 win over Wales. France had been hoping to retain the title they had won in 2022 and put some pressure on Ireland with their bonus point win. However, with Steward now sent off and England playing with 14 men, there is an air of acceptance and inevitability in their comments.
Before that second half resumes, there is a final jump to the English dressing room, where captain Owen Farrell is urging his teammates to fight on, fully aware that Ireland may tighten further as long as the contest remains close. He declares:
“Lads there’s 40 minutes. 40 minutes to f***ing go for them.
“We’ll deal with whatever comes our way, but this is now a f***ing bosh, straight up. Right now, let’s go.”
The score was 10-9, after a Farrell penalty, right up until the 61st minute. The home crowd were feeling antsy, and desperately seeking a big player, or moment, to swing the tie in their favour.
Ultimately, it was constant Irish pressure, phase after phase, that saw the 14 men of England wilt. Robbie Henshaw crashed over for a try that broke the game open, with further scores following for hookers Dan Sheehan and Rob Herring.
One year on, the championship is back but the two men that made the speeches have moved on. Sexton retired after the 2023 World Cup, while Farrell opted to step away from Test rugby for the remainder of 2023/24 after helping England to third place at the World Cup. He will move to Racing 92, this summer, so it remains to be seen if he will ever play Test rugby for England again.
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