Ireland captain Johnny Sexton feels he let himself down following his reaction to being substituted late on in the Guinness Six Nations defeat to France and has since apologised to head coach Andy Farrell.
The instrumental fly-half was visibly annoyed at being replaced by Ross Byrne in the final quarter of his side’s 35-27 loss at the Stade de France on Saturday, repeatedly shaking his head in a prolonged trudge from the turf.
While Farrell has moved on, agreeing “100 per cent” that the issue is a storm in a teacup after naming his squad for the forthcoming Autumn Nations Cup, a contrite Sexton admitted it is “a low point” in his career.
Sexton feels his response to being brought off was as much about the disappointment of his side’s performance but admitted it should not have happened.
He said: “You’ve got to take it from my point of view, it’s in the heat of the moment, I’m in one of the biggest games I’ve played in as captain. It’s a low point and I reacted in a bad way in a split second and that’s it.
“I spoke to Andy after the game and again on Sunday when I realised it was such a big thing and we sorted things out. I apologised and said ‘it shouldn’t have happened, it did, it was a split second’.
“I let myself down in that regard but you learn and move on. It’s not the first apology I’ve made in my career and it won’t be the last, probably. Thankfully we’ve got a good relationship and there’s no problems going forward.”
Farrell, who has drafted in uncapped trio James Lowe, Billy Burns and Shane Daly for Ireland’s games against Wales on November 13, England on November 21 and Georgia on November 29, was philosophical when discussing Sexton.
Farrell said at a press conference: “The last thing I want to do to Jonny is stop him from being himself, otherwise we all suffer.
“Jonny’s a passionate guy and it’s the reason why we all love him as a player at the top of the Irish game. I don’t feel undermined and the team don’t either.
“You’re not going to change overnight a person that’s been at the top doing what he’s done because of the intent and the attitude that he’s got.”
New Zealand-born Lowe has been handed his first Ireland call-up after completing a three-year residency period with Leinster and could make his international bow against Wales.
Farrell said of the winger: “I’m as keen as everyone to see how he goes at the international level. It is a different level but we’ve seen the potential of what he’s shown in the PRO14 and how’s he fitted in for Leinster.
“We’ll see if that transfers on to the international scene. If you were a betting man, you’d be pretty excited about seeing him play and do well.”
Keith Earls returns from injury, but there is no room in the group for John Cooney despite being included as cover against France.
British and Irish Lions prop Tadhg Furlong is among a number of players sidelined through injury, with Ryan Baird, Dave Kilcoyne, Ringrose, Jordan Larmour and Will Addison also absent.
Looking ahead to the next few weeks, Sexton said: “Every time you play for Ireland you want to win and play well. There’s still going to be pressure on us to win.
“I’m very much looking forward to the campaign ahead and ultimately we need to improve.
“We’re a new team, we finished third in the Six Nations and that’s probably a fair reflection of our performances.”