Deutsche Tageszeitung - Hungry Ireland target World Cup after New Zealand tour triumph

Hungry Ireland target World Cup after New Zealand tour triumph

Hungry Ireland target World Cup after New Zealand tour triumph
Hungry Ireland target World Cup after New Zealand tour triumph / Foto: © AFP

Captain Johnny Sexton urged Ireland to use their triumphant tour of New Zealand as a springboard to Six Nations and World Cup success in 2023.

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The Irish completed one of their finest rugby achievements by beating the All Blacks 32-22 in Wellington on Saturday, clinching a 2-1 series win which was just the sixth on New Zealand soil by any touring team.

Sexton said his players should now enjoy their off-season. But once they return he does not want standards to slip at any point ahead of the World Cup in France, which is just 14 months away.

Veteran fly-half Sexton, who turned 37 on Monday, said the enormity of what his team had achieved in New Zealand, fighting back from a Test down, should not be underestimated, but he believed they are capable of going to another level.

"We've got a full season to play so it shouldn't be 'beat New Zealand and then wait for the World Cup'," Sexton said.

"There's plenty more to play. There's big home games in November, there's the Six Nations to play, where we still haven't achieved things that we want to achieve."

Ireland have underperformed at World Cups, having never advanced beyond the quarter-finals, including a 46-14 humbling from New Zealand at that stage three years ago in Japan, where they also were stunned by the hosts in the pool stage.

And despite winning five of their last eight Tests against the All Blacks, they have only managed to win one Six Nations championship in seven years.

"We had the Triple Crown this year but the Championship, or even better (World Cup) would be something we're aiming for," said Sexton, who added the best way to secure trophies would be to capitalise on the groundwork laid in New Zealand.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't be trying to progress. It's very Irish to think, 'Oh, we can take it easy now'," he said.

- 'Just keep getting better' -

"No, let's keep making the most of it, let's keep getting better. That has to be driven by, of course, me as captain and the leadership group.

"Show the right attitude in September when we're back playing for provinces and just keep getting better. That's the key."

Ireland's emphatic humbling of the All Blacks will thrust them to the top of the world rankings, due for release on Monday, and anoint the Irish as one of the favourites for the World Cup in September and October next year.

Coach Andy Farrell believed his plan to subject his players to an intense season-ending tour of New Zealand, which also featured two challenging midweek games against the Maori All Blacks, would reap rewards down the track.

"That's the biggest thing about the tour, the learnings we get from it as a group of 70 people -- 40 players and 30 staff," said Farrell.

"To have done what we've done, and made it so hectic and so difficult, there's so much to be learned," he said, with an eye on next year's World Cup, which will involve his squad being together for two months if they make it all the way to the final on October 28.

"Only these guys know the truth. We put them under some immense pressure on purpose and they never missed a beat. Not one person had an excuse, not one person gave out on anything," said Farrell.

"It's the most proud I've ever been, being part of a group, without a shadow of doubt."