Ireland captain Johnny Sexton says he will have to work hard to remove the emotion from his Six Nations swansong as his side targets the Grand Slam against a wounded England team.
Sexton has the chance to win his first championship clean sweep as Irish captain in Dublin on Saturday.
The 37-year-old also needs just one point to surpass Ronan O’Gara as the Six Nations’ record scorer.
Despite all the subplots, however, Sexton remains focused on performance.
Asked on Wednesday if it will be challenging to keep a lid on his emotions, he said: “Of course, but once I start getting dragged into that, you start getting away from how you’re going to make that happen. Process, performance and making sure that you’re nailed on.
“I’m trying to get away from it as much as I can. I knew the questions were going to come but look, I have got a bit more emotional the further I’ve gone on definitely so it’ll be about trying to hold that back but use it as well because hopefully it’ll be a special day.”
Leinster fly-half Sexton will earn his 113th cap on Saturday having won three Six Nations titles since making his international debut in 2009.
And while the veteran half-back will draw the curtain on a 13-year Six Nations journey that began against England at Twickenham in 2010, he was keen to point out that this weekend does not represent the end of his Ireland career with the World Cup to come later this year.
“You’d never be able to live with yourself if you didn’t turn up and play well,” he added.
“That’s the focus. You take the emotion out of it. It’s going to be emotional anyway. You’re playing England at home with something on the line. It’s what you’ve always wanted to do and where you’ve wanted to be.
“It’s not the last game with this team, I certainly hope not. We’ve got a lot more of the journey left so I’m not really thinking like that. I’m just thinking about getting out there and putting in the best performance I can and trying to get everyone else on the same page.”
As he approaches his last Six Nations game, Sexton – who said England are a “dangerous opponent” given their humiliating defeat by France last weekend – also identified the two key areas behind his longevity at the top end of rugby.
“Luck,” he said plainly. “Being able to avoid those big injuries that you see cruelly happen to some players recently, [former Ireland and Leinster flanker] Dan Leavy for example. Top of his game. Number seven jersey and then it finished in one moment.
“Also being able to bounce back from adversity. I’ve had plenty of bad days, plenty of criticisms ands scrutiny. Being able to bounce back from those bad moments.”
Ireland are going for their fourth Grand Slam on Saturday and having won the previous three in Belfast (1948), Cardiff (2009) and London (2018), Sexton was asked what it would mean to be the first Ireland captain to complete a clean sweep in front of a Dublin crowd.
“That’s the bit we talked about from the start, that it’s never been done at home,” he said.
“It’s something we identified very early and said ‘imagine this happening, imagine having a shot at it at home in front of your family, friends.’
“Now it’s the big occasion and it’s about dealing with that, embracing it and getting a good performance out there.”
Source – BBC Sport
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