Johnny Sexton will start his first knock-out match at World Cup on Saturday when Ireland play New Zealand in World Cup quarter-final.
Ireland beat New Zealand last November and the victory lead to Sexton being named the World player of the year. “I’m sure that’s what they’ll be speaking about going into this game, to go into it at full-tilt,” said Sexton, ahead of Saturday’s match against the All Blacks.
IRELAND v NEW ZEALAND 2016
“As far as that second game in 2016 went, that was almost the turning point for a lot of the rule changes about high tackles.
Sexton took the hour-long bus journey from the team hotel then, but was glad of the chance to get his bearings at the ground, alongside skills coach Richie Murphy.
“I just didn’t want to break routine before a big game,” said Sexton.
“I’ve never not kicked at a stadium the day before a game, so I wasn’t going to start something new now.
“I had the bus to myself, and I had the pitch to myself, which was a bit strange.
“But I was able to chill out on the bus and I’ll do the same on the way back.”
Sexton and scrum-half Conor Murray will set a new Ireland record 56th joint Test start as a half-back pairing, moving past the previous high mark held by Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara.
The 87-cap Ireland fly-half Sexton admitted he expects people to start talking about the end of his partnership with 30-year-old Murray straight after the World Cup – but vowed both men still have a big Test future.
“When we started off we wouldn’t have believed we’d go on to play this many games together,” said Sexton.
Sexton on his partnership with Conor Murray
“It was like two strangers, almost introducing ourselves to each other in the first two games.
“And look, we’ve gone from strength to strength. He’s a top-quality operator, a quality pass and kicking game and all the things you’d expect from a world class scrum-half.
“It’s been a pleasure to play alongside him and I hope that we have many more together.
“At the end of the World Cup people will probably start calling for our heads, saying we’re too old and that the next batch needs to come through; I can see it already.
“But we hope that we’ve got a good few more years left in us yet.”