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Epic Sexton drama reaching critical point of third act

Johnny Sexton had to be patient to get into the Ireland shirt.

Considering he was just a few months short of 25 when he got to experience Six Nations rugby for the first time, it's little wonder he's decided to stay so long.

This evening, the Ireland captain will make his 60th and final appearance in the competition, one score away from passing Ronan O'Gara's all-time Six Nations points record, and one win away from claiming his fourth title, and second Grand Slam out on the pitch.

"He has changed rugby for the better. He has taught people what it is like to be a professional, to be an Irishman," said Peter O'Mahony of his captain's legacy this week.

While he was central to the wins of 2014, 2015 and 2018, he had a hand in the 2009 Grand Slam success as Ronan O'Gara's understudy.

If Ireland do complete their own slam this evening, you can be sure both Sexton and Andy Farrell will be namechecking the likes of Gavin Coombes, Cian Prendergast, Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale in their post-match thoughts.

Like those four players, Sexton didn't play a minute of that 2009 campaign, but played a part in making the team champions.

At 37, the out-half remains central to Ireland's success, and it's a mark of his will to win that in his final season before retirement, there isn't even a question mark surrounding his place in the team.

Last week, when the prospect of surpassing O'Gara's championship record of 557 points was broached, he said he'd happily go scoreless against Scotland and England if it meant Ireland won the slam.

And after seven points against the Scots drew him level with that record, a scoreless outing against England would be the only way he can miss out on taking that crown for himself.

You can break his Irish career

Read more on rte.ie