Schmidt delighted with Sexton return


Joe Schmidt hailed the impact of Jonathan Sexton's return after Ireland kept their Six Nations title hopes alive with a 19-9 victory over France on Saturday.

Sexton had missed the opening two matches of this year's competition with a calf problem, but he returned with a fine display at fly-half as Ireland recorded back-to-back wins.

The Leinster playmaker kicked 11 of Ireland's 19 points in Dublin before being replaced late on, his heroics earning him a chance to rest.

Schmidt was delighted with that contribution, particularly his interplay with half-back partner Conor Murray - scorer of Ireland's only try.

"I thought he was really, really positive for us," Schmidt said at his post-match media conference.

"He varied the game in the second half superbly, a couple of great kicks in behind them that allowed us to keep the pressure on. 

"He never shirks his defensive responsibilities anyway Johnny so you knew the value he was going to give. We aimed to give him 50-55 minutes but with the nature of the game we gave him a little bit longer.

"It's not the first time that Johnny has done it [come back from injury]. He's got such a competitive edge that he wants to be at his best all the time. He actually felt good, he felt fresh, I think, for some of the others they have accumulated knocks and fatigue. 

"The game was a little bit stop-start at the scrum and resets, that allowed him a little bit of breather as well."

It was not only Sexton who came in for praise from the Ireland coach, who was pleased with the efforts of all his squad as they negated the French flair to seal a 10th successive home win in the Six Nations.

"I've got a fair bit admiration for the players, they really had to roll their sleeves up," he added. 

"Conditions were tough, even early in the game when there wasn't as much drizzle it was still wet and slippery, hard to get feet on the ground and hard to control the ball. I think we did a good job of it.

"Unfortunately we let that slip a couple of times and fell behind on the scoreboard but I was really impressed with the way the players knuckled down and worked their way back into the game, and got the try we needed."