l’essentiel Deux essais et 24 points sans forcer: la légende internationale irlandaise Jonathan Sexton, absent des terrains depuis près de six mois, a réussi son retour en s’économisant contre une faible Roumanie (82-8) samedi à Bordeaux.
The 38-year-old opener (with 114 selections) calmly entered his fourth World Cup, repositioning himself by walking or trotting during his 66 minutes on the field. Nonetheless, he managed to score his sixteenth and seventeenth tries in the green jersey (in the 40th and 62nd minutes) and successfully converted 7 out of 8 attempts. This brings his total selection points to 1074, just 9 points shy of the Irish record held by another legend, Ronan O’Gara (1083), which he is expected to surpass in this tournament. He has already taken the record for most points scored by an Irish player in the World Cup, raising it to 102, compared to the former Munster opener, who now manages La Rochelle, with 93 points.
Ironically, it was the lost Champions Cup final against O’Gara’s Rochelais by his province Leinster that indirectly delayed his return to the field. Injured in the adductors on March 18th in the Six Nations Tournament against England, Sexton was indeed suspended for three weeks in July for « misconduct » in the stands during the Champions Cup final and was therefore deprived of Ireland’s preparation matches. After such a long absence, the veteran admitted on Thursday to feeling « a bit nervous » before returning to the field.
Cela s’est vu au coup d’envoi, légèrement bafouillé. Il a également cafouillé un autre renvoi après une pénalité roumaine (21e) et il n’est pas exempt de tout reproche sur le premier essai roumain consécutif à un petit coup de pied à suivre un peu trop court de sa part (3e). Mais pour le reste, le demi d’ouverture irlandais est toujours vert! Face aux perches, son pied n’a pas tremblé, ratant seulement une transformation en coin, après le troisième essai de Beirne (17e). Et il a même rectifié le tir sur une tentative similaire qui a filé entre les perches, après le quatrième essai d’Aki (34e), pour finir à près de 90% de réussite.
With the ball in hand, he played just like in training, ensuring quick transitions through short passes in the well-oiled Irish game system. And when he made a long pass, he was instrumental in two tries (Aki 12th and Beirne 17th). In defense, he was hardly tested in a one-sided match where the ball rarely left the Irish hands. The test against Tonga next Saturday in Nantes will therefore be necessary to assess and increase the pace before the big clash in the first round against the South African world champions in two weeks at the Stade de France. The Irish supporters, who had turned the Bordeaux stadium green, don’t seem worried. They gave their captain a loud ovation as he left the field shortly after the hour mark.