Johnny Sexton ended his final Six Nations with the Grand Slam
Dublin (AFP) - Head coach Andy Farrell said it was “unbelievably fitting” that “the greatest player to play for Ireland”, Johnny Sexton, ended his Six Nations career by captaining the Irish to the Grand Slam.
The 37-year-old also became the Six Nations all-time record points scorer, finishing with 566 after Ireland beat England 29-16 at Lansdowne Road.
The visitors were reduced to 14 men after Freddie Steward was sent off at the end of the first half.
Farrell was delighted that Sexton could lift the trophy in his home city of Dublin.
Ireland’s previous three Five/Six Nations Grand Slams came in Belfast (1948), Cardiff (2009) and London (2018).
“I am delighted for captain Johnny here to finish his Six Nations campaign with the Grand Slam,” said Farrell at the post-match press conference.
“It doesn’t come around that often and it is unbelievably fitting, in my opinion, that the greatest player to play for Ireland is able to sign off on a Grand Slam on St Patrick’s weekend in front of his own crowd.
“There’s a lot of stars that have aligned over the last eight weeks that have come together and accumulated into this evening.”
- ‘This is not the end’ -
Lifting the trophy represented the pinnacle so far for Sexton under Farrell – Ireland won the Triple Crown last year but came second to Grand Slam winners France.
“He’s been able to, how do I put it, bounce back after I was taken off in France in 2020,” said Sexton, who on that occasion scowled as he was replaced in Paris in what was Farrell’s first Six Nations in charge.
“That was a low point, a real low point for me. And this is a high point, but I hope it’s not the highest point.
“Roll on the World Cup!”
Farrell – who was assistant coach when Ireland sealed the Grand Slam in 2018 – said it was taking a while to sink in.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, am I a bit sad or happy,” said Farrell.
“I don’t know. It’s a weird feeling at this moment in time.
“I’m just elated for the boys, just to get it over the line.
“Because it meant so much for them, especially being here, at home.
“The first one at home (Dublin), you know, it’s a special occasion, especially with the weekend that’s been.
“So we felt a duty that we couldn’t let people down.”
Sexton, whose children joined him on the pitch after the final whistle, said his 60th and final Six Nations appearance provided a fairytale ending.
“Yeah, you couldn’t make it up really,” said Sexton, who will retire from Test rugby after the World Cup later this year.
“I said it during the week, this is the stuff of dreams.
“Growing up all I wanted to do was play for Ireland and then, I don’t know why, but I wanted to captain Ireland.
“This fella (Farrell) asked me to do it and it was at the time the best day of my life.”
Sexton, though, was keen to focus not on himself and the personal glory but the team.
He said that the Grand Slam was an “even better day” due to the squad sharing it.
“It’s a great group, great management team, great bunch of players,” he said.
“And I’ve just said in the dressing room there, this is not the end.
“There’s plenty more in us.”
England captain Owen Farrell – son of Andy – was perplexed by Steward’s red card.
“I was surprised (it was a red card), if I’m honest,” he said.
“But it’s not up to us. We don’t make the rules.
“The way that we reacted after we got that red card was very good. I thought we fought for each other.”