CJ Stander On What The Irish Players Were Thinking During Those 41 Phases

Dark place.

CJ Stander says the Irish players completely switched off during their incredible 41-phases, in the build-up to Johnny Sexton’s miraculous winning drop goal.

The Munster back-row says it was a matter of getting your head down and entering a dark place, and that it felt even longer that it really was. Stander says it’s a place a lot of the Irish players have been to in previous years.

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Speaking to RTÉ’s Michael Corcoran after the game, Stander says the players showed a lot of character during those phases against France.

“There was a lot of character shown in the last 41 phases to get Johnny into that position.” Stander said.

“We’ve all watched and been part of games where that mistake happens and that’s the end of it. When you stand up and wait for a ball, that thought goes through your head, but we all knew as a collective we needed to win certain battles to get Johnny in that position.

“In fairness everyone stepped up and took the ball with confidence.

“There was a lot of mental focus. In the first six phases you think, ‘do I still have enough left in me?’ After that you just switch off and go to a dark place. You put your head down, make sure you go forward and look after the ball. It’s a place a lot of us have been to in previous years. 

“It felt longer than 41 phases. You lie there and it felt like the ball was flying forever (for Sexton’s kick). When it happens and the whistle goes there’s a lot of emotion and excitement.”

It may have been a moment of magic from Sexton, but no doubt it was a team effort to put him in that position.