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France set to target Ireland's Johnny Sexton in crunch Pool D clash

Published 07/10/2015

Johnny Sexton is France's chief target for Sunday's World Cup showdown with Ireland
Johnny Sexton is France's chief target for Sunday's World Cup showdown with Ireland

Eddy Ben Arous has vowed to go after Johnny Sexton as France raise the pressure on Ireland's linchpin fly-half.

Brice Dulin called on France to suffocate Sexton and remove him from Ireland's "vanguard", for Les Bleus to claim victory in Sunday's Millennium Stadium encounter.

The victors will top Pool D and meet Argentina in the quarter-finals, while the losers will face the All Blacks.

Sexton insisted he remained unfazed by the target on his back earlier this week, but that has not stopped France's bully-boy rhetoric.

"I know that he is slow in getting rid of the ball, so I am going to try to put the maximum pressure on him," said prop Ben Arous, a former team-mate of Sexton at Racing Metro.

"I am going to hunt him down as often as possible.

"We are going to go after him 200 per cent because he is the strong man of this team."

France have targeted Sexton for the last two Six Nations campaigns but Ireland still sneaked through both encounters to claim consecutive titles.

Sexton suffered a head injury in Ireland's 22-20 victory over France in Paris in March 2014, that secured Joe Schmidt's men the Six Nations title and handed Brian O'Driscoll the fairytale Test farewell.

Ireland's chief playmaker then returned from a three-month concussion lay-off for the 2015 Six Nations match, enduring a torrid time from juggernaut centre Mathieu Bastareaud.

Despite the physical treatment, Sexton still excelled, with Ireland triumphing 18-11 in Dublin en route to their second-straight Six Nations crown.

Reports branded Sexton the Zlatan Ibrahimovic of French club rugby this week, referencing his patchy two years at Racing Metro that came to an end this summer.

Ireland lock Devin Toner rubbished such claims on Wednesday, insisting Sexton cuts a low-key, albeit highly-driven, professional.

France were refusing to shy away from turning a pre-match narrative into a barrage aimed at one man and one man only however.

"It is imperative to go after him," said France full-back Dulin, another of Sexton's former Racing team-mates.

"We have to tire him so that he finds it tough to make the calls.

"He has a certain manner of playing for Ireland. He loves it hugely to be in the vanguard in order to build the attacks.

"It is of the greatest importance to be able to read him in his attitude, his positioning, to anticipate what he is going to put into motion."

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