France sends a statement of intent after beating New Zealand in their World Cup opener

World Cup debutant Jack Crawley believes fellow Irishman Johnny Sexton has shown “the kind of man he is” with his smooth return after almost six months on the sidelines.

Captain Sexton impressed in his first competitive appearance since celebrating his Six Nations Grand Slam success in March, scoring 24 points, including two tries, in Saturday’s 82-8 thrashing of Romania.

The 38-year-old received a standing ovation from tens of thousands of Irish fans when he was substituted 15 minutes from time before substitute Crawley came on to score four successful conversions in the Championship bracket.

Munster playmaker Crawley, who made his Test debut in November, has been inspired by Sexton’s resilience and dedication to overcoming setbacks.

The 23-year-old is also ready when asked to step in for his influential captain as he eyes Group B matches against Tonga, South Africa and Scotland.

“It just shows the type of guy he is, the preparation he puts into his training and the mentality he has,” Crawley said of Sexton’s return.

“That’s the kind of leader he is: by actions. You can see that it doesn’t matter if he’s out for nine or 10 months, he’ll always perform because of the way he prepares. He’s a true leader.

“Of course, you always have to be prepared (to fill the position). You can’t assume or assume anything.

“His level of preparation to get through his performance is something I’m learning from and I’m going to try and put it into practice. You always have to be ready.”

Ireland’s 12-try thrashing in sweltering heat in Bordeaux was their biggest World Cup win.

Record-breaking Sexton overcame a lengthy injury and suspension absence to overtake Ronan O’Gara as his country’s top goalscorer at the tournament (102) and John Hayes as Ireland’s oldest international.

Crawley feels he and fellow No.10 Ross Byrne enjoy a “special and special relationship” with the 2018 FIFA World Player of the Year.

“Being in camp for the last 10 or 12 months has been huge for me to be able to learn from,” he continued.

“To see the way he has been out over the last couple of months, the way he has applied himself in training and the way he is dedicating himself to preparation and everything like that is massive.

“I saw that it wasn’t just a fluke that he performed the way he did, the way he could do certain things.

“To be able to sign someone like him, and for Ross and I to learn from him, and for the three of us to be able to bounce ideas off each other, is a special, special relationship.”

Crawley has overtaken fellow regional Joey Carbery and, apparently, Byrne to become Sexton’s first-choice replacement.

The rising Test player, who helped his county win the United Rugby Championship last season, admits the prospect of playing in the World Cup initially seemed like a pipe dream.

He added: “As a youngster, you always look at the World Cup and Six Nations and want to play in them, but you never think it is possible because you are back to where you are now.” Seventh hat.

“But just staying in it, passing the levels, and getting your ranks is massive.

“I’m very grateful for where I am, but I think it’s more about being in a special group of players and staff who provide me with opportunities to be the player I can be.”

(tags for translation) Rugby union

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