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Friendly rivalry for Ireland duo

Jonathan Sexton knows his blossoming friendship with Ronan O'Gara will soon be replaced by enmity, but for the moment Ireland's rival fly-halves are content to celebrate a stunning victory.

England entered the Aviva Stadium on the brink of completing their first Grand Slam since 2003, but departed with a chastening 24-8 defeat directed by Sexton.

"There's been a lot written about the two of us. We're good friends now, though we probably didn't get off to the best starts!" he said. "But what happens on the pitch between Leinster and Munster goes out the window when it comes to Ireland."

The mantra that a special performance was imminent had been repeated throughout a disappointing RBS 6 Nations and on Saturday Ireland finally delivered in an afternoon of controlled fury.

Star turns littered Lansdowne Road but the pick of the them was man of the match Sexton, the 25-year-old engaged in a high-profile duel for selection with O'Gara. Debate has raged over who should pull the strings with Declan Kidney's constant tinkering in the position evidence of a coach unsure of his first choice for the World Cup.

Sexton, who surely now occupies pole position, admits the intense competition between the two has forged a more intimate bond.

Two years ago a precocious Sexton gave his rival verbals in Leinster's Heineken Cup semi-final rout of Munster, but they embraced as Lansdowne Road acclaimed the exit of England's tormentor in chief with a standing ovation.

"I'm sure we'll be back killing each other in two weeks time when we play Munster at Thomond Park, but we're great friends right now building towards the World Cup," he added.

"We have a good laugh about the talk over who's the Irish 10. We're fully aware that when one plays well, the other gets criticised. That's not how it should work, but I've learnt a lot in that respect over the last few weeks. You mature from it.

"There's a lot of support out there for Ronan and he deserves it after what he's done for Munster and Irish rugby. I'll have to put in a few more performances like that to get the support he's had."

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