France know that if they can stop Jonathan Sexton on Sunday they have a good chance of topping Pool D.
Jonathan Sexton will have to prove once again that he can cope under pressure with France admitting they will target him in Sunday’s decisive Pool D fixture in Cardiff.
The Irish fly-half has just finished two years in the Top 14 and knows all about the French game, but came under fire this week for his attitude while at Racing-Métro.
His Irish teammates were quick to defend him, and regardless of what happened in France, Sexton has shown time and again that he can cope with being in the firing line.
During this year’s Six Nations he made his return from a long injury break and was forced to deal with a number of charges from Mathieu Bastareaud, who had also run at him the previous year in Paris.
While Sexton came off second best in those exchanges, Ireland won the game on each occasion, and there is certainly a danger that France get too obsessed with the Irish playmaker.
Loosehead Eddy Ben Arous, Sexton’s former teammate at Racing, explained that France would be looking to put the fly-half under pressure, particularly when it came to clearing the ball.
“I know that he is slow in getting rid of the ball, I am going to try and put the maximum pressure on him,” said Ben Arous.
“I am going to hunt him down as often as possible.
“We are going to go after him 200 percent because he is their most valuable player.”
Sexton’s time at Racing was not as fruitful as ambitious owner Jacky Lorenzetti might have hoped, before a return to Leinster after the World Cup.
And Ben Arous admitted that the French had probably not seen the best of Sexton in club colours.
He added: “I’m not sure if he is boosted by playing for Ireland, but it’s true there are two Jonathan Sextons. At Racing 92 he had some difficulty, I’m not sure if it was the fact he was playing in France.
“In any case, there are two of him, and we didn’t have the best one with us.”
The whole of France will be hoping that by putting Sexton under pressure, it’s the Racing version that shows up, however the Ireland version seems more likely.