Rugby

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

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

Ireland take on New Zealand in the World Cup quarter final tomorrow morning, and it is set to be some occasion. While Ireland have been under par for much of this tournament, all of that has been forgotten heading into the knockout stages.

The All Blacks will no doubt enter as heavy favourites, but Ireland have form against Steve Hansen's side. It will be a huge ask but Ireland have a chance.

Speaking in a pre-match press conference earlier today, Johnny Sexton says this is a challenge he and his team are ready for. Knockout rugby is nothing new to this squad and that is an experience the team will take into tomorrow.

I remember Declan Kidney saying that to us in 2011, we've been reared in knockout rugby. I came up through the schools system, cup rugby knockout rugby, going to play with Mary's, playing in the AIL, all the cups you play at club level.

Then you're into the Heineken Cup, so we're sort of reared in it. We play a lot of knockout rugby. We probably play a little bit more than New Zealand, they go straight into a semi after a conference.

So it's something that doesn't feel too different to all those other knockout games I've been involved in. We just need to use experience when we go out there tomorrow.

If Ireland are to pull off the upset tomorrow, their halfback partnership will be key. Sexton and Murray are set to break the record for most Ireland appearances by a halfback partnership, overtaking the mark set by Peter Stringer and Ronan O'Gara.

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Sexton admitted today that such records were far from their thoughts when they first play alongside each other.

When we started off together you wouldn't believe that we would have gone on to play this many games together. It was like two strangers, we were almost introducing ourselves to each other for the first few games.

We've gone from strength to strength. He's a top quality operator, his quality of pass, kicking game, the basics, that's what world class scrum halves are.

He's up against it tomorrow with Aaron Smith, but it's been a pleasure to play alongside him and I hope that we get many more together.

At the end of the World Cup you guys will probably turn and start calling for our heads because we're too old and the next batch has to come through, I can see it already! We hope that we have a few more years left together.

SEE ALSO: 'I Have Never Seen Him Play So Well. He's Been Fantastic'

Gary Connaughton

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