Perfectionist Sexton gets Ireland going in Cardiff

In a supremely assured performance in the 50-7 victory, Sexton got his backline humming, kicked for the corners with unerring accuracy, sent four of his five place kicks through the posts and raced 40 metres for a try.


Schmidt, however, thought an early effort to get the ball out to the Irish flanks with a lofted cut-out pass would be the move the 30-year-old dwelt on.

“He will reflect on the game and the first wide pass he made looped into touch,” the New Zealander told reporters.

“It was the perfect opportunity. It was the right decision but he didn’t quite execute it accurately enough.

“He will probably chastise himself for that, in amongst about 30 other really positive moments. That’s the way he is driven and that’s how he drives the team.”

It is the sort of drive that took another perfectionist flyhalf named Jonny, England’s Wilkinson, to a World Cup winner’s medal in 2003 and there will be many in Ireland hoping Sexton can do the same this year.

“I felt he played really well today,” Schmidt added. “He played 55 minutes to get man of the match, so he’s reasonably happy with that.

“He passed 500 points in international rugby which is a real milestone for him and something he hugely deserved for all the effort he puts to making sure he’s well prepared.”

Although Ireland will face tougher challenges ahead in a group that also includes France, Italy and Romania, the seven-try victory was a welcome return to form for Sexton and his country after an underwhelming warm-up campaign.

If Sexton was feeling the pressure after a couple of average performances, he did not show it, and a clearing cross-kick to centre Jared Payne from his own goal-line showed vision and a player with complete confidence in his skills.

“He’s not one of the most well paid rugby players in the world for nothing, is he?” said Canada coach Kieran Crowley.

“He has good game management, and always creates a threat because he has a kicking threat and a running threat. He’s a pretty competent 10 which any team in the world would be happy to have in their side.”

(Editing by Justin Palmer)