Six Nations 2015: Jonathan Sexton says he is fine after Ireland win

2015 Six Nations: Ireland 18 - 11 France

Jonathan Sexton said he had suffered no ill-effects despite needing stitches following another bang to his head in Ireland's Six Nations win over France.

Sexton was named man of the match after kicking 15 points in Ireland's 18-11 victory as he made his return to rugby after a 12-week concussion lay-off.

"It was just a glancing blow," said Sexton of his clash of heads with burly France centre Mathieu Bastareaud.

"I just needed a couple of stitches but I felt fine after it."

In the run-up to Saturday's game, former French international Laurent Benezech had described the Racing Metro fly-half's inclusion in the Ireland team as a "big mistake", while a number of the France side hinted that Sexton could be targeted in the Aviva Stadium game.

The debate over Sexton's selection led the Irish Rugby Football Union to release a strongly-worded statement on Friday night, defending the Dubliner's inclusion.

Doctors were right to stop me - Jonathan Sexton

For his part, the 29-year-old said that he had attempted to ignore the press coverage.

"I tried to stay away from most of it," said Sexton, who was briefly replaced by Ian Madigan while he got the stitches. "There was a little bit of talk in the press but you can't do anything about that.

"I needed to concentrate on my performance. I didn't get off to the best start with a couple of miscommunications and bad passes but we've plenty to improve on and that's a great place to be."

Ireland were forced to defend desperately in the closing stages as France produced intense late pressure after Romain Taofifenua's 70th-minute try.

"That's a very good French team," insisted Sexton.

"We made it hard for ourselves as usual and we dug deep at the end.

"We're delighted. We've got a lot to improve on and we've got a big match here in two weeks against England."

Ireland's 2015 Six Nations matches
7 FebruaryItaly 3-26 Ireland
14 FebruaryIreland 18-11 France
1 MarchEngland (h)
14 MarchWales (a)
21 MarchScotland (a)

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said that Sexton had exhibited no signs of concussion despite the head clash.

"He was replaced because of the blood, not because of any concussion," added Schmidt.

The Ireland coach revealed that number eight Jamie Heaslip was in a "lot of pain" following the game after appearing to be kneed in the back by France lock Pascal Pape.

The France second row was sin-binned by referee Wayne Barnes following the incident and Schmidt said that he expected the footage to be looked at "by people who make decisions".

Heaslip had to be replaced by Jordi Murphy after the incident.

Schmidt added that his team had performed an "admirable job" in holding on to win despite France's second-half pressure.

"They have some of the biggest humans I've seen playing rugby," he said.

"When Bastareaud and (Uini) Atonio and Taofifenua started to give them that go-forward, it's very difficult to stop them.

"We just about survived and we can be really proud of the effort we put it."