'We're Reared Off Knockout Rugby' - Sexton Ready For All Blacks Test

'We're Reared Off Knockout Rugby' - Sexton Ready For All Blacks Test”

Ireland face holders New Zealand in Tokyo on Saturday aiming to end the All Blacks' quest for an unprecedented third successive World Cup crown.

"We have to be smart. That's the quality that the All Blacks have - that's the athletes that they possess", he explained.

His compatriot, Steve Hansen, meanwhile has made three changes to the starting XV which played against Namibia, their last scheduled pool game against Italy having been cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Speaking on the eve of what he has described as the biggest game of his career, the current World Player of the Year recalled a bruising encounter in Dublin, a week after Ireland's historic 40-19 win at Soldier Field, Chicago.

Four years ago in Brighton, their 34-32 victory over two-time world champions South Africa was the greatest upset in the history of the competition.

The 31-year-old lock said: "These games are why we play Rugby".

"That's the cool thing for us as players and coaches we're getting to live those dreams, those wet, cold days when you're told to go outside because you're annoying mum and dad".

While Ireland did come into this World Cup as the number one ranked team in the world, it wasn't a true reflection as New Zealand still remain the best team and that won't change until someone defeats them.

While the All Blacks don't want to be packing their bags at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday, at least they'll do it themselves.

Captain Kieran Read returns at No. 8 in place of Shannon Frizell, Richie Mo'unga is back at flyhalf instead of Jordie Barrett, and Beauden Barrett replaces Ben Smith at fullback.

However, veteran Sonny Bill Williams maintains there will be full focus.

One Kiwi media outlet went further this week by arguing that the coaching staff had to shoulder much of the blame for a team that was poorly selected and completely outcoached.

"But you can't guarantee that you've got any decision right until the game is completed".

"Of course we'd like it to be better but it is what it is", the out-half said of Ireland's record at World Cups.

On Wednesday, Hansen met with Ireland assistant Andy Farrell and chatted about the winner-takes-all element of tomorrow's match.

For the players, it is an opportunity to go where none of their predecessors have gone before and shatter the quarter-final glass ceiling.

"One of us will be going home", he said.

Can Ireland win on Saturday, they certainly can because Johnny Sexton is on the field. Four years on, we are at rude health going into the knockout stages, apart from the suspended Bundee Aki and long term injury to Dan Leavy. "We'll be the same".

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