Sexton: Irelands' tour win in New Zealand was test for World Cup
REACTION: Ireland captain Johnny Sexton says the New Zealand tour win in July 2022 was part of their preparation as they head into the last eight against the Kiwis next Saturday in Saint-Denis.
Sexton said Ireland always knew they would most likely face New Zealand and the tour last year was a test to make them learn.
“We went to New Zealand and Andy told us he put us under the most pressure he could find. To go on a three-test tour but also do the midweek games, it was to test us and to make us learn,” the captain said.
“We learned so many lessons on that tour to take with us for the Six Nations, to win a Grand Slam. To put us in this situation again, to have to play them again. They have said it’s the one they want, they are hurting and they want to put it right.
“That is the biggest challenge in rugby, to beat them when they are in that frame of mind. Two teams will both be under pressure and it will be who copes with that the best.”
“Sometimes when you know in the back of your mind when you have different permutations, if you get one point, if you get two, if you’re losing. All these different things. We just needed to narrow the focus and say we are here to win the game and put in a performance to do that. Very happy with the lads and we’re exactly where we want to be now.
“We won the pool and we are into the quarterfinal. We always knew we would most likely play France or New Zealand. There’s no easy option there and we have New Zealand.
“It’ll be a very tough game and I see they have been talking about revenge already. It’ll be a game they want and we need to be ready for it.”
Irelands’ coach Andy Farrell gave some insight on the injuries his side sustained against Scotland.
“Obviously we will see how they pull up in the morning but Mack [Hansen] went off with a HIA and felt his calf straight away so we got him off. James Ryan has a bit of a knock on his wrist that we need to assess more, so we will see how he is.
“James Lowe got a bang in the eye, it shut and he couldn’t see much, his vision was coming back towards the end of the game, which is good. A few more bangs and bruises that will need to be assessed tomorrow.”
He was very happy with the step Ireland made with their defence, especially against Scotland.
“I definitely think it has because of the time we have spent together. When we are preparing for a normal competition, a Six Nations or Autumn Nations, we have five sessions before we get into it.
“Our defence has always been strong but we had 15 or 16 weeks together so you would expect every part of your game to get better. It certainly has to keep doing that to keep progressing in this competition.
“It’s no secret, everyone says it all over the world, it’s defence that wins World Cups and it certainly won us the first half this week that is for sure.”
While Ireland is on the brink of making history if they win their first quaterfinal, Farrell said he doesn’t think they have played their best rugby yet.
“I don’t think and neither do the team think we have played our best rugby yet. We know where we want to go and what we want to achieve. Will we ever go there? I don’t know. But it’s days like next week that are coming where we need to find out a bit more about ourselves and these lads are more than willing to do that.
“First things first, we will enjoy tonight because it was a big week for us. It was a big game for us as Scotland are a great team. We paid them the respect they deserve and that is why we came out with a performance like we did in the first half. The wives and girlfriends and families are over and we will make sure we enjoy that.
“I’m sure once we have recovered properly with a spring in our step, if you can’t get excited about what is coming, this is proper living now. This is exactly where you want to be and these boys have been waiting for opportunities and big games to show what they have learned for a while now. It doesn’t get any bigger than next week and we will relish that.”