Johnny Sexton has backed Billy Burns to recover from his mistake at the end of Ireland’s Round 1 defeat against Wales and insisted such moments are part and parcel of life as a Test fly-half.
Burns, who replaced Sexton with 11 minutes to play following the captain’s withdrawal through injury, had the chance to pin Wales deep inside their own 22 when the 14-man visitors were awarded a penalty with the clock in the red.
The Ulster man put too much on his kick, however, which went dead and turned out to be the final action of Ireland’s 21-16 defeat.
Sexton had missed touch himself with a penalty earlier in the half and empathised with his teammate, who he felt had to take a calculated risk with the injury time kick.
Report: Second half comeback sees Wales edge past Ireland
“When you are chasing the game five points down, you have to put it five metres out – that’s when you score the try,” said the 35-year-old.
“If you put it 10 metres out, a good maul very rarely gets over. Other days you get it right and you’re the hero – that’s the life of a No.10. It can come down to small margins.
“I’ve been there as a 10. You have moments you’re the hero and moments you’re the villain. You put yourself in those moments as that’s the responsibility you have.
“If he’d kicked the ball out on the 22, I think that would have been worse than going for it to try and stick it five metres out. It didn’t come off for him today but he’ll learn from it and he’ll go again.
“I thought he did very well in the other parts of the game and it’s not just one moment. There were plenty of things we could have done better throughout the game.”
Farrell: ‘Valiant’ Ireland put in unbelievable effort in Cardiff
Ireland arrived in Cardiff looking for their first win in the Welsh capital since 2013 and their cause was not helped by Peter O’Mahony’s early red card, which left the visitors a man light for 66 minutes.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Ireland remained in the contest throughout and led at the break only to fall narrowly short following second half tries from George North and Louis Rees-Zammit.
“Any defeat is gutting,” Sexton said. “We spoke at half time about it coming down to small things and we didn’t get enough of them right.
“It could have been a very famous victory for us – it is never easy to come to Cardiff and win and to have done it with 14 men would have been incredibly special, but it wasn’t to be.
“The effort was incredible. You wouldn’t have known we were playing with 14 if you were looking at the game, so I’m very proud.”
The Irish skipper will now look to pick his side up ahead of the visit of France to Dublin next weekend, with the Men in Green unable to afford another defeat if they are to challenge for this year’s Championship crown.
“It’s all about next week now,” Sexton added. “We could be top of the table next week if we get a big result at home.
“We know we are playing against arguably the form team in Europe. We’ll have to right the wrongs of today, and I fully back this group to do it.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was also positive his side will respond quickly to their opening weekend setback and said: “It was a valiant effort. I thought we played some really good stuff at times and asked a lot of questions.
“The lads will feel sorry for themselves for a couple of hours and bring the best version of themselves into work tomorrow.
“A Six Nations is not won on the first weekend. From hereon in we have to be more clinical and give the performances of our lives to be in the battle to win the competition.
“We’ve got a very good French side coming over next week and we’ll back ourselves against anyone at the Aviva.”