Six Nations
Keatley expects Sexton to face France
ESPN Staff
February 8, 2015
Ian Keatley kicks for goal for Ireland, Italy v Ireland, Six Nations, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy, February 7, 2015
Ian Keatley goes for the sticks in Rome © Getty Images

Ian Keatley expects Johnny Sexton to start against France despite enjoying a successful day from the tee against Italy on Saturday.

Keatley posted a 100 per cent goal-kicking record on his Six Nations debut as Ireland eased past Italy 26-3 with a staccato performance in Rome. The 27-year-old conceded Sexton should start against France on Saturday, however, with Sexton finally free to return after an enforced 12-week concussion lay-off.

Keatley declared "you need Johnny Sexton in your team" in accepting his fate for France's Dublin visit - but refused to give up on his Test dream despite a refreshingly frank personal appraisal.

"To be honest Johnny's done so well over the last three or four years he deserves the number-one position," said Keatley. "He's one of the best out-halves in the world so to be honest I presume that he's going to be straight in there for the French match, even though he hasn't played in a while.

"He's still been keeping fit and you need Johnny Sexton in your team. I can take a lot of confidence from playing in Italy, but also I need to know where I want to get to. I know that Johnny is number one, but you can't just accept that. If you're looking to play second-fiddle to someone the whole time you're not going to improve personally.

"So that's what I want to do, I want to keep improving and just keep challenging Johnny and hopefully play in more big games like this. With the sub position I don't know what's going to happen there, I'm just delighted with the win in Italy first and foremost.

"And I can still iron out things in my performance. I'm sure I'll go through it with Joe [Schmidt] and just look to improve."

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