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Sexton ready for "bigger responsibility" of playing for Level-5 Ireland

Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton admits having a locked-down country watching will add an extra da...

Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton admits having a locked-down country watching will add an extra dash of responsibility to the side's return. 

The country will be into its third day of a six-week lockdown when Ireland take to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday to face Italy.

Elite sport earned a reprieve from the Government on Monday night, despite the introduction of level-5 COVID-19 restrictions.

Given the circumstances, Sexton says Ireland will want to put in a memorable performance on Saturday.

"You feel a bigger responsibility with the restrictions that have come in now, and the country's gone back to level-5," the captain told his Tuesday press conference.

"There's obviously a sense that the whole country will be watching us.

"We're always being looked at, but I think it's - I suppose - an even bigger responsibility.

"Italy are going to be in the same boat as us as well. Both teams will be very motivated, but any time you play for Ireland it's a big responsibility.

"But yeah, there's a little bit of extra onus on us this week. Obviously, we need to win the game first and foremost, that's the most important."

"Obviously it will come down to points difference and bonus-points and stuff, so that will come later in the game, but we need to try and win the game first and foremost.

"Putting on a show isn't something we've spoken about, but putting in a good performance is something that we're very conscious of and want to do."

Having limped out of Leinster's opening Guinness PRO14 game of the season with a minor hamstring injury, there had been renewed concerns over Sexton's fitness.

However, the out-half insists the work he's done over the past week in the Ireland camp will stand him in good stead for the test of the Azzurri.

Given the safety protocols to which the squad have to adhere, Sexton feels the meat and potatoes of training and playing is giving them their own vignette of normality.

"The most normal thing we're doing at the moment is our rugby training where we don't have to wear masks, and we can be around each other when we're outside.

"Obviously that's always the time where we feel the most comfortable, and it's even more evident now when you're out on the pitch it's the most normal life gets.

"And then you go into meetings - masks on, 2-metres apart - we have to have most of our meetings on the pitch really, because it's outdoors and all those things.

"It's a very different camp life, but we feel very privileged and we're very lucky to keep doing what we're doing.

"Obviously there was fears that if the country went to level-5 would we be allowed play at all, so we're very grateful for the chance to be able to continue as it is."

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Coronavirus Covid-19 Ireland Italy Johnny Sexton Jonathan Sexton Sexton Six Nations