Sexton calls on Irish to avenge All Blacks World Cup thumping

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Ireland captain Johnny Sexton wants his team-mates to rebound from their World Cup thumping by New Zealand and repeat their historic home success over the All Blacks in November 2018 (AFP/Paul FAITH)
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Ireland have to "respond" in positive fashion when they face New Zealand for the first time since they were thumped 46-14 by Saturday's opponents in the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final said Johnny Sexton.

The 36-year-old Irish playmaker would rather hark back to the last time they played each other at Lansdowne Road in 2018 when the hosts beat the then world champions 16-9.

This was the first time they had beaten them at home whilst two years before they had recorded their maiden victory against the All Blacks with a 40-29 triumph at Soldier Field Stadium, home of the Chicago Bears.

"It was a little bit of 'monkey off the back' stuff and getting over the hurdle at last was huge," Sexton said of the historic 2016 win.

"It was something that we were desperate for. It's always very special to be the first team to do something.

"You always want to put your name in the history books and that was our chance to do something that no Irish team had done before.

"It was amazing and then to back it up a few years later -- any team can do a one-off but we wanted to back it up and show that it wasn't a fluke."

Sexton, though, acknowledges that no team ever gains a psychological hold over the All Blacks, they just come back even more eager to avenge defeat.

This is just what they did in 2019 in Japan and Sexton says he and his team-mates will have to work extra hard to secure just their third win in 33 meetings on Saturday.

"It obviously brought us back down to earth in our last game against them, so we've got to respond," said Sexton.

"Nothing ever comes easy against them, that's what happens when you're (playing) the best in the world, you have to go and work for it, and we're willing to work.

"We're just trying to give it our best shot"

It has been all change at the top of both sides since that match with Andy Farrell replacing Joe Schmidt as Ireland head coach and Sexton succeeded the retired Rory Best as skipper.

New Zealand have also switched coach, with Ian Foster stepping into the role vacated by Steve Hansen.

Sexton says captaining a side that beats the All Blacks would be a bit more special.

"It would add a little bit," he said.

"I think it would still be special if I wasn't captain but there's a little bit of that there, of course.

"As captain, you're desperate for the team to be successful.

"It is a privilege but it's another ramp up in terms of how much I want the team to go well and win and perform because it is a reflection of your leadership.

"It would mean a lot."

Sexton is relieved with the size of the task the All Blacks represent he has been able to focus solely on the match as last week his head was turned by winning his 100th cap for his country.

He produced a stand out performance scoring 16 points in Ireland's 60-5 rout of Japan.

"It was a bit draining last week, it was an emotional week from the jersey presentation to all of the messages coming in from different people," he said.

"You wouldn't want it any other way but, by the time it came to Saturday morning, I was like, 'I've got a game to play now'.

"I'm glad -- not that it's over because it was a very special day for me and my family -- but I'm glad it's back to business."

pi/dmc

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