Johnny Sexton has shrugged off criticism from former France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who said Ireland would be better off without the veteran flyhalf.
Despite the Ireland captain playing a crucial role in their opening Six Nations victory over Wales, Sexton came under fire this week from current Montpellier coach Sanit-Andre.
The former France coach told the media that Ireland would be better off giving one of their younger playmakers, like Sexton’s Leinster teammate Ross Byrne, a run this year.
“Less and less, I find,” Saint-Andre said. “In fact, to be honest, they are maybe better without him.
“I like Ross Byrne, he is capable of exceptional things. Yes, Sexton is an icon, he remains the starter, but Byrne has played more than him this season at Leinster.
“They have a new generation who are showing up well, who are interesting.”
However, when asked about Saint-Andre’s comments, Sexton laughed it off and said criticism is something he is used to at this stage of his career.
“I’m well used to it at this stage, this week of the season,” Sexton told UK media. “France, whether it’s home or away, there’s always something from one direction or another, whether it’s inside the camp or outside the camp.
“The one [comment] you’re referring to is obviously outside the camp.
“You can’t control what people say, you have to do your talking on the pitch. It’s nothing new for me in this fixture to have some things thrown at me that you wouldn’t expect.”
The comments come as Ireland prepare to face France in what will be a decisive Six Nations match in Paris on Saturday.
“It’s a massive fixture, France away,” Sexton said. “How many times have we won over there in 20 or 30 years? Not too many. It takes a special team to go and win there and it will take a great performance.
“We’re playing against one of the most in-form teams in the world. We are in good form as well so it has been hyped up.
“If we can win in Stade de France it puts us in a good position to win a Championship. We’ve been there a few times over the years.”
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