There's a ancient medical process called trepanation, which involves drilling into the skull to relieve pressure on the brain.
Bet you didn't see too many rugby write-ups last weekend start with a sentence like THAT, did you? Well trust me, I'm going somewhere with it.
As every Irish fan will know, Jonathan Sexton has had his struggles with the Irish jersey in his 25 tests before this clash at the Aviva Stadium. Reproducing the excellent form he repeatedly shows in a Leinster jersey has somehow eluded him.
Yet nobody can deny he is the future for the Irish rugby team, so faith must be shown in him. But of course, with that faith comes a great deal of pressure. And every time he pulls on that green number 10 jersey, he only needs glance across the dressing room to see who is pulling on number 21 to remind himself of that very pressure.
And believe me, I'm not suggesting he has been some kind of “victim” when it comes to playing for his country. Such are the challenges that must be overcome at this level, and if it is to be a heat he cannot stand then he should high-tail it out of the proverbial kitchen.
But for this match, I felt the pressure more than usual for the lad. And I felt it particularly surrounding his opening place kick. Of course, going into the match you don't know when or where on the field it's going to be, I just prayed that it was going to be a relatively easy one so he could settle down. Well as it turned out, it WAS to be a relatively easy one, but fate had another obstacle to throw in his path.
With 8:30 gone and Ireland already 0-3 down, Sexton tried a little diagonal grubber through to get a bit of much needed territory. Just as it neared the line Sergio Parisse managed to keep it in play and run back at the now scrambling Irish defence. Unhindered by his failure to find touch, the Irish outhalf got involved in bringing the inspirational Italian skipper down, and got the knee of lock Quentin Gildenhuys to the head for his trouble.
Just a few seconds later, the Italian backs were penalised for crossing and Ireland finally had their first chance to get the scoreboard moving. Sadly, their place kicker was down on one knee being treated for a bleeding wound just above his hairline which no doubt had the physio concerned of a concussion.
Before you could say “Fields of Athenry”, O'Gara had his substitute's coat whipped off and was actually on the pitch ready to take the kick for what looked like would be a blood substitution. Little did he know the magic gel had been applied to Sexton's cut and he wasn't even entertaining the thought of giving up responsibility to his “mentor”. And so with a wry smile the Munster legend trotted back to his seat and started struggling to zip back up his coat.
So here we had it – Sexton insisted he wanted to take the kick despite a major blow to the bonce, and added to that was all the pressure from the Welsh match a few weeks prior in the same stadium. It was in a reasonable position for a right-footed kicker, about 18m in from the touchline and 10m in the Italian half. Definitely one he'd be expected to make.
He drilled it with conviction and it started to the left of the posts before falling perfectly between them and over the bar.
Ireland may have only pulled level and had much work still left to do, but for me, that was the moment when Jonathan Sexton proved to himself more than anyone else that he belongs in that green Number 10 jersey.
And we all know what was to come from the rest of the match once that pressure was relieved. He made all of his first seven kicks, with his second and third proving just as challenging as the first, both coming as they did from close to the sideline.
Not to mention his key involvement in all five Irish tries. The piece de resistance was his pass that set up Bowe's second. Not only did it have to be accurate, it had to be fizzed across to the Ospreys winger otherwise Luke McLean was primed to intercept and return with interest and Sexton threaded the needle to perfection.
Of course I'm not suggesting it was a flawless performance from our stand-off, not at all. He was a key figure in that bizarre ten-minute spell towards the end of the first half after Botes' second missed placekick came off the crossbar and Ireland couldn't buy their way out of their own half.
Given the chance to clear with a penalty, Sexton couldn't even kick it out of his own 22, then Rory Best couldn't even find a player in green. Italy may a team in transition, and they may be a long way from seriously being able to compete for Six Nations honours, but at least they're at a stage whereby they can take full advantage of a series of blunders like that and thus we had Parisse touching down to make the score 10-10 which no doubt had George Hook reaching for his Curmudgeon's Phrase Book to fuel his half-time rant.
Yet much like his earlier set-back, Sexton was able to respond. Awarded a penalty in a similar position to that he had before Keith Earls' opening try, he chose to kick for touch again. The RTE commentary team thought that was crazy. I thought it made perfect sense because we had already shown that we could score with decent red zone possession.
And with that, Sexton fired another quick accurate pass to Ferris who could have gone himself but had the presence of mind to pass it on to Bowe and thus boost my fantasy points even more.
I think I've written enough about the Irish out-half, don't you? Well he WAS the Man of the Match, but of course he wasn't the only good performer on the day.
Paul O'Connell was his rampaging self, more so than usual, taking to the captain's role like a fish to water like we all knew he would. Ferris played like he had a point to prove and he very much did so. As a team, we were employing the choke tackle in the right areas of the pitch and the Italians had no idea how to handle it.
On the downside, several players were quiet, most of all two thirds of our backrow in O'Brien and Heaslip. Perhaps they weren't needed this time, but you can be sure they will next week and it won't just be the one player of the calibre of Parisse they'll be dealing with then. Another who won't be thrilled with the DVD sessions is Gordon D'Arcy – though he had an early break and made some tackles he played his part in that nightmare ten-minute spell. Earls had a good finish for his score but neither Irish centre did much to show they’ll be able to withstand Fofana and Rougerie running at them next Sunday.
But special mention has to go to Rob Kearney. 13 carries for 124 yards (113m) are stats any NFL running back would be delighted with, and that's what our full-back managed in a display actually surpassing that against Wales. There were many question marks about the Louth man after his long term injury last year especially when it came to usurping Isa Nacewa for the Leinster 15 jersey, but Kearney has come up trumps and put himself right back in the running for the starting Lions role.
Finally with all the prevailing talk in the Irish media (and admittedly also this writeup so far) being about the Sexton/O'Gara and Leinster/Munster sagas, it mustn't be ignored how much of a part was played by the Ulstermen on the day, not just Ferris and Bowe either. Though they were late in the day, Court and Trimble each provided tries their respective positions live for.
So there we have it. A few bumps along the road, and the opposition wasn't exactly top drawer (Botes actually showed a few decent touches despite his placekicking woes and deserves to be on the pitch but perhaps with a slightly smaller number on his back), but the Italians were there to be put away and it has to be said Declan Kidney's men did so.
Would I make changes to this team for next Sunday? Probably. For Sexton to orchestrate his offence properly he craves a steady supply of front-foot phases and for all his abilities I'm really not sure that Conor Murray is the man to provide it. Things definitely moved more smoothly when Reddan was calling the shots. Plus of course there's the “Ryan over O'Callaghan” argument which will never go away.
But do I think Kidney will make any changes to this team for next Sunday? Definitely not, even if he did make the interesting move of slotting Bowe at 13 when McFadden came on. I have to resign myself to his conservative leanings now so as not to be disappointed when it is announced which will mean I can focus on getting behind them much as I was at kickoff last Saturday.
Because this Irish 22 still have a point or two to prove. The pressure of years upon years of failure in Paris will no doubt be on their minds as they walk out on the Stade de France turf once more. It's up to them to ignore it and show us all they belong. JLP
ALSO THIS WEEKEND
IRELAND U20S 27-8 ITALY U20S
It took the Wolfpuppies over 70m to score a try courtesy of man of the match lock Iain Henderson, yet though it wasn't the first of the match they were worthy of their victory. The Italians came to compete at the breakdown but not always legally and Paddy Jackson was on form with the boot enough to establish an unassailable lead. Fullback Layden added a 2nd before the end. Slam still on!
IRELAND 40-10 ITALY (Women)
ENGLAND 12-19 WALES
75 minutes of bish bash bosh from these two sides but apart from England's by now customary block-down in the 22 only Wales ever looked like getting a try and it took sub Scott Williams ripping the ball from Lawes at halfway, kicking through and getting the bounce to do it. Strettle came micrometres close to touching down at the end but the TMO said no and the Triple Crown is off to Cardiff.
SCOTLAND 17-23 FRANCE
The Irish still have to play these two sides, and there were equal amounts of positives and negatives from both. Two rare Scottish tries from Hogg & Jones were each pegged back by Fofana & Médard and Wayne Barnes seemed to think the home side gave away more penalties. One thing is for sure...the Irish centres will have their hands full with Fofana & Rougerie in Paris next week.