Ireland and the All Blacks face each other on November 17th, a match between to top two ranked sides in the world.
Ireland didn’t have that lofty status when Johnny Sexton faced New Zealand early in his international career. He came off the bench in a 66-28 defeat to the All Blacks in New Plymouth in the summer of 2010, but it was when he started against the same opposition a few months later, while earning his 10th cap, that he felt the full force.
“I vomited at half-time,” the Leinster outhalf admitted.
“It was just an incredible pace to the game, just every collision was ferocious. Every collision was like the first collision of the game. That was my first time playing against them and it was an eye-opener. Our levels of fitness now and our levels of preparation have gone up a lot since then.
Sexton has victories over the All Blacks under his belt, when Ireland claimed their first ever win in Chicago in 2016 along with a Test success while playing for the British & Irish Lions.
“It’s a great challenge, a lot of us now have beaten them a couple of times and we want to do it again.
“We’ve never beaten them in Ireland, so it would be pretty special to be on the first Irish team to beat them here. As players we need to concentrate on the first couple of games (Italy and Argentina) but at the same time it’s going to be a pretty special occasion.”
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One man who will be trying to mastermind success over New Zealand, is Ireland’s Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt. Sexton describes him as “the best around”, but his contract runs out at the end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“I think, as players, we hope that he stays, but he’s done an incredible job. I have worked with him since 2010/11 and the success that he has brought to us with Leinster to get to the six finals in three years and then to go and win three [Six Nations] championships; it’s been a special time, a lot of that has been down to him and we have still got more to go.
“We all know the standards that are set. You look at teams that are successful. The All Blacks, they develop standards and then the senior players along with whoever is new, they try and drive the same standards. That’s what we will try and do if he does leave. Whoever takes over, you know, will get with the senior players and say ‘how are we going to do this?’ and we have to make sure that we do that.
Watch: Wallabies captain Michael Hooper looks ahead to All Blacks clash
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