Johnny Sexton was determined to enjoy Ireland's historic series win in New Zealand, even if he recognises there remains work to do ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup.

Ireland headed to New Zealand for a three-match series having never won an away Test against the All Blacks.

They ended that wait last week to set up a decider in Wellington, where the tourists sensationally snatched the series with a 32-22 success.

The result was no less than Ireland deserved, with their 19-point half-time lead the largest any team has ever enjoyed at that stage of a Test against New Zealand.

Although the All Blacks rallied after the break, with Andrew Porter heading to the sin bin, Sexton helped to keep his side ahead having passed 1,000 international points in the first half.

"It's a very special day, because we're playing against the best in the world, the very best," Sexton told Sky Sport in the post-match presentation. "To come down here and do it is very, very special."

Sexton said Ireland have learned the hard way about getting carried away. This result comes a year out from the 2023 World Cup – a competition that Ireland have yet to win, or even make the semi-finals of, despite being one of the world's best teams over an extended period.

"It means a lot now," Sexton said. "I know in a year's time, when the World Cup starts, it won't mean anything, as we've learned before.

"But we'll certainly enjoy tonight – and maybe a couple more days. Then we've got to keep improving; that's what we've learned from previous years: we've got to keep improving.

"This group of boys, with the management we've got, they're a very special group, and I'm proud to be part of it."

Sexton paid special tribute to Ireland coach Andy Farrell.

"It's clear how much belief [is in the team], and it starts with the main man, with Faz," he said.

"He's come in here, he's changed things, he was brave at the start and he stuck with some older lads and got criticised, he brought in some younger lads, he's just done an amazing job. It's all credit to him, really."

Ireland secured a historic first away win over New Zealand as they defeated the 14-man All Blacks 23-12 in Dunedin on Saturday.

Andy Farrell's visitors found themselves on the wrong end of a comprehensive 42-19 All Blacks victory in the first Test last weekend, but Ireland managed to tie the series.

They were seemingly given a helping hand by the first-half dismissal of New Zealand prop Angus Ta'avao for a head clash with Ireland centre Garry Ringrose.

Ireland were already 10-0 to the good by that point thanks to Andrew Porter charging over early on, before Johnny Sexton – a controversial starter after failing an in-game head injury assessment last time out – added the extras and later scored a long-distance penalty.

The All Blacks did well to only trail by three points at the interval, with Beauden Barrett's converted try right at the end of a pulsating first half frustrating Ireland.

The 10-point advantage was restored by Porter's second try following great work by Bundee Aki down the right, and Sexton's conversion and two more penalties had Ireland 23-7 to the good.

Will Jordan crossed for New Zealand near the end, but it was too little, too late as Ireland sealed a famous win.

World Rugby has hit out at "irresponsible" safety campaigners who have criticised the governing body's head injury assessment (HIA) process.

Safety campaign group Progressive Rugby claimed the HIA protocols had been "exposed" after Johnny Sexton was passed fit to play in Ireland's second Test against New Zealand.

Ireland skipper Sexton was taken off with a head injury during last weekend's first Test, but he passed the subsequent HIA checks and was given the all-clear to play again on Saturday.

Responding to the criticism, World Rugby said in a statement on Thursday that the wellbeing of players is never put at risk.

"It is the duty of any individual or organisation commenting on the head injury assessment process to do so using the facts," the statement read.

"Attempting to diagnose a serious medical condition like concussion from afar, without all the relevant information including a player's medical history, is irresponsible and no substitute for the world-leading medical care received by elite rugby players.

"Doctors are supported by the head injury assessment and recently updated return-to-play protocols put in place by World Rugby. 

"These protocols are developed using scientific evidence and independent expert opinion which are kept under constant review, as we never stand still on player welfare."

As part of changes announced by World Rugby last month, players now face an increased minimum period of 12 days out of action should they be found to have suffered a concussion.

That has seen the likes of Tom Curry and Tomas Francis return home from England's and Wales' tours of Australia and South Africa respectively this week after sustaining such injuries in their opening Tests.

 

Johnny Sexton will return to Ireland duty for the second Test against New Zealand, just a week after suffering a head injury in the opening game of the series.

The fly-half and captain had to be replaced half an hour into the first Test after he failed a head injury assessment; however, he has been passed fit to feature on Saturday.

Coach Andy Farrell named his team on Thursday for a game that will be played under a roof at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, with Mack Hansen coming in on the right wing.

Ireland are otherwise unchanged, and to be able to call on Sexton is a boost to their prospects.

Peter O'Mahony took on the captaincy responsibility after Sexton went off early in Ireland's 42-19 defeat in Auckland, and he welcomed confirmation that the 36-year-old would be available.

Quoted by the Irish Independent, O'Mahony said: "There is no secret, Johnny is one of the best 10s in the world, one of the best players in the world, so you want to be dealing with a full deck.

"We want to be playing with as full a bill of health as possible and there isn't anyone you can say you can afford to have out with regard to having three games in the space of nine or 10 days. He is hugely important to us, obviously our captain. I am far from a medical practitioner, but he has been in good form."

New Zealand have a concussion absentee, with Sam Whitelock ruled out, meaning Scott Barrett is switched to lock from his flanker role as Dalton Papalii comes into the team.


New Zealand team: J Barrett, Reece, Ioane, Tupaea, Fainga'anuku, B Barrett, Smith, Savea, Cane (captain), Papalii, S Barrett, Retallick, Tu'ungafasi, Taylor, Bower.

Replacement: Taukei'aho, Ross, Ta'avao, Tuipulotu, Sowakula, Fakatava, Mo'unga, Jordan.

Ireland team: Keenan, Hansen, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe, Sexton, Gibson Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, Beirne, Ryan, O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris.

Replacements: Herring, Healy, Bealham, Treadwell, Conan, Murray, Carbery, Aki.

Ardie Savea bagged a double as New Zealand overcame a difficult week of preparations to swat aside Ireland with a 42-19 win in the first Test in Auckland.

The All Blacks overcame a nervy start against Andy Farrell's visitors to gradually, and then ruthlessly, impose themselves upon proceedings at Eden Park.

Ireland, who lost influential fly-half Johnny Sexton half-an-hour in after he failed a head injury assessment, had arrived for their three-game tour looking to back up victory in November with a first win in New Zealand.

An early try for Keith Earls looked to represent the perfect start for them, particularly against a home team whose build-up had been ransacked by a COVID-19 outbreak, requiring ex-Ireland boss Joe Schmidt to step into their coaching ranks.

But a barnstorming run by debutant Leicester Fainga’anuku helped get Jordie Barrett over the line in response, sparking a fluid All Blacks passage, with finishes for Sevu Reece, Quinn Tupaea and Savea setting a 28-5 advantage at the break.

Garry Ringrose responded after the interval to give Ireland hope, but a superb solo second for Savea sealed the game,before Pita Gus Sowakula crossed for a try on debut and Bundee Aki nabbed a late consolation finish in the closing stages.

La Rochelle lifted their first ever European Champions Cup after Arthur Retiere's late try stole a dramatic 24-21 win over Leinster at Stade Velodrome.

Despite scoring the first try in Marseille through Raymond Rhule, La Rochelle trailed for much of the match as Jonny Sexton's boot dominated for Leinster on Saturday.

He had 18 points before Pierre Bourgarit powered over for La Rochelle to tee up a nervy finish as last year's runners-up piled on the pressure.

The French side's indiscipline almost put the game beyond them, with Thomas Lavault sent to the sin bin and Ross Byrne – on for the injured Sexton with 16 minutes remaining – kicking another three points, but Retiere's last-gasp response swung the final in their favour.

Leinster, chasing a record-equalling fifth title, ultimately paid for their failure to score a try – not that it appeared to matter as Sexton converted two straightforward penalties to edge them ahead.

Rhule then bundled over in the left corner after Dillyn Leyds' offload, before another Sexton penalty put Leinster back on top, and he profited again before the break when La Rochelle were punished for more sloppiness.

West reduced the arrears with three points after the interval, but Sexton responded with a further two penalties to take Leinster out of reach of a converted La Rochelle try.

That lead was cut after 61 minutes, however, as Bourgarit crossed following a maul and West's conversion made it a one-point game.

Sexton limped off in the aftermath of that try, but La Rochelle's momentum appeared to be halted when Lavault was yellow-carded for tripping Jamison Gibson-Park, allowing replacement Byrne to dispatch the subsequent kick.

And yet there was still time, with a prolonged period of La Rochelle pressure ending in Retiere breaking through to claim Champions Cup glory for his side at the second time of asking.

Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton will retire after the 2023 World Cup despite signing a new deal with Irish Rugby.

The 36-year-old, who earned his 100th cap in November and won the 2018 World Player of the Year, wants to go out on a high at next year's World Cup in France.

Irish Rugby confirmed on Tuesday that Sexton had signed a new contract up until the 2023 event but the 103-cap veteran said he would finish up after that.

“Yeah, finished, 2023 World Cup – it’s up to me to work hard, get the body and mind in the best shape possible and attack the last 18 months,” he said.

“I’m still very driven to get there and perform at the World Cup. I always said that if I am enjoying my rugby and the Ireland and Leinster set-ups believe I can add value to the environment then it would be an easy decision to sign another contract.

“There is some great talent coming through at Leinster at present and I am excited about the prospect of competing at a fourth World Cup with Ireland and the potential for growth in this group between now and then.”

Sexton has played 103 times for Ireland in his storied career and reached the milestone of 500 points in the Six Nations in the 29-7 win over the defending champions last month.

A four-time European Champions Cup winner with Leinster, Sexton is now looking ahead to the prospect of a fourth World Cup finals appearance in France next year.

Ireland and Leinster star Johnny Sexton has signed a new contract that will run until after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The 36-year-old has captained his country since January 2020, leading them to 10 wins in 13 matches in that time.

Sexton has played 103 times for Ireland in his storied career and reached the milestone of 500 points in the Six Nations in the 29-7 win over the defending champions last month.

A four-time European Champions Cup winner with Leinster, Sexton is now looking ahead to the prospect of a fourth World Cup finals appearance in France next year.

"I always said that if I am enjoying my rugby and the Ireland and Leinster set-ups believe I can add value to the environment then it would be an easy decision to sign another contract," the fly-half said.

 

"There is some great talent coming through at Leinster at present and I am excited about the prospect of competing at a fourth World Cup with Ireland and the potential for growth in this group between now and then."

David Nucifora, performance director for Irish Rugby, said: "Johnny's performances continue to be of the highest standard and he remains an integral member of the Ireland and Leinster squads.

"He has always been a leader on the field and in the past two years since taking on the Ireland captaincy his leadership off it has been top class. Johnny is a generational player and we are delighted that he has extended to 2023."

Johnny Sexton will miss Ireland's Six Nations clash with France on Saturday due to a hamstring problem.

Ireland captain Sexton surpassed 500 points in the competition last week, as he helped Andy Farrell's team to a 29-7 defeat of reigning champions Wales in Dublin.

However, the 36-year-old will not feature in Paris after sustaining an injury in training on Wednesday, and James Ryan will captain Ireland instead.

Joey Carbery will replace Sexton in Farrell's line-up, which was announced on Thursday. It is the only change Ireland have made.

Iain Henderson, Robbie Henshaw and Jack Carty have come into the squad and will be on the bench, with Ryan Baird and James Hume dropping out.

France, meanwhile, have made two alterations to their side, with Francois Cros and Yoram Moefana replacing Dylan Cretin and Jonathan Danty respectively.

Antoine Dupont was one of 11 players to assist a try across the opening weekend and now has 12 assists to his name in the Six Nations, the most of any France player.

The scrum-half will again look to dictate the play as Les Bleus aim to win their opening two games in an edition of the Six Nations for the third year in a row, this after managing it just twice in their previous eight campaigns in the Championship.

This will be the 101st meeting between the nations, with France winning 58 times and Ireland triumphing on 35 occasions.

Les Bleus have the edge in the Six Nations, winning half of their 22 encounters, including the two most recent games.

They thrashed Italy 37-10 in their opening fixture to go top of the standings after round one.

 

Ireland team:  Hugo Keenan, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen, Joey Carbery, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements:  Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Carty, Robbie Henshaw.

France team:  Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Yoram Moefana, Gabin Villiere, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Gregory Alldritt, Anthony Jelonch, Francois Cros, Paul Willemse, Cameron Woki, Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille.

Replacements:  Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos.

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has been ruled out for up to six weeks after suffering a twisted ankle and knee in the famous 29-20 victory over New Zealand on Saturday.

The Leinster fly-half will miss the final match of the Autumn Nations Series campaign against Argentina on Sunday and faces at least four weeks on the sidelines.

Joey Carbery came on to replace Sexton with 15 minutes to go at the Aviva Stadium and sent three penalties sailing through the posts to consign the All Blacks to defeat.

Sexton will remain with squad, while Connacht number 10 Jack Carty has been called up in the absence of the skipper.

Andy Farrell will also be able to call upon Munster back rower Gavin Coombes against the Pumas after he recovered from illness.

Ireland beat Argentina 28-17 when the two nations last met in Dublin three years ago.

Johnny Sexton says Ireland are "on a journey" and praised the team's character to bounce back from consecutive Six Nations defeats to hammer Italy in Rome.

Andy Farrell's side had started the tournament with defeats to Wales and France, the first by five points and the second by only two.

Ireland outclassed a poor Italy side on Saturday, though, with the Azzurri now having lost 30 straight Six Nations matches following the 48-10 reverse – the longest losing streak in the competition's history. 

The visitors ran in six tries while Sexton, returning to the side from a head injury, was eight from eight from the tee. That represents the most by any Ireland player while maintaining a 100 per cent success rate from the tee since Paddy Jackson kicked nine of nine against Italy in 2017.

With games against Scotland and England to come, Sexton is keen to ensure Ireland build on a promising display.

"We need to keep our performance levels like that against two very good sides," Sexton told ITV Sport after his 50th Six Nations appearance.

"Scotland have been very impressive in the first two rounds and if not for a red card would have been top of the table, probably. 

"This group is on a journey together, we're a year into it and we'd have liked to have had that performance earlier. 

"It's not for the want of trying, it's just little mix-ups along the way. Thankfully we put them right.

"We played very well, all of our forwards did – they've been very impressive over the first two rounds. 

"We've felt as a team that us backs have let them down at times. We improved on a lot of those areas today and thankfully got the victory we were desperate for. 

"We spoke about how close we were in the first two – both very different games but just very proud of the boys, the way we bounced back, it's a real sign of character when things have been going the way they have in the last few weeks, just to stick together and to show the work we've been doing behind the scenes."

Ireland have now won 21 of their 22 games against Italy in the Six Nations, while the 38-point margin of victory was their biggest in any Test match since beating the same opposition 63-10 in February 2017.

Ireland kick-started their Six Nations campaign as they beat Italy for an eighth successive time in the competition, claiming a 48-10 bonus-point victory in Rome.

Having gone down to Wales and France in their opening matches – the first time Ireland had lost their first two games of a Six Nations campaign – Andy Farrell's men got their first win of the 2021 campaign on Saturday.

The returning Johnny Sexton was typically influential, on point with his kicking and integral to slick attacks as Ireland made it 21 wins from their last 22 Six Nations meetings with Italy.

Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors propelled Ireland to a 27-point haul in the first half, Ireland's best first-half total in a Test since February 2018, with CJ Stander and Keith Earls also getting in on the act to seal a routine triumph.

Welcomed back into Ireland's line-up after missing the defeat to France due to a head injury, Sexton marked his 50th Six Nations appearance with a simple three-pointer five minutes in, moments after Paolo Garbisi nosed Italy ahead.

Sexton was adding two more points to his tally five minutes later, with Ringrose having picked a gap in Italy's defence to score the game's first try.

Another Sexton penalty edged Ireland further in front and despite some spirited Italy attacking, the visitors struck again as Ringrose turned provider for Keenan.

Ireland had a third try before half-time, Sexton combining with Jordan Larmour to feed Connors in the corner, though Italy managed to strike back through Johan Meyer.

Yet Italy's work was undone by sloppy defending immediately after the restart – Stander bundling his way over.

Italy's issues were compounded before the hour, substitute Giosue Zilocchi sent to the bin for an attempted ball steal.

Ireland appeared to have made their advantage count when Stander found the line again, only for the try to be disallowed for a knock-on.

Luca Bigi's booking handed Ireland a further boost, though, and Connors hauled himself over from a maul before Earls piled further misery on sorry Italy.

 

Perfect comeback for Sexton

Since his Six Nations debut, Sexton has missed just seven of a possible 57 matches in the championship, including Ireland's defeat to Italy in 2013.

Sexton successfully converted all eight of his kicks on Saturday, tallying up 18 points in total to give him a pristine record. The pace of the game was ideal for the 35-year-old, who also made eight tackles and 20 passes – the last of which played in Earls late on.

More misery for whipping boys Italy

Italy's losing run in the Six Nations now sits at 30 games, the longest of any side in the competition's history. Their last win at home was back in 2013, against Ireland (22-15).

They have now conceded a try-scoring bonus point in 18 of their 22 matches since such add-ons were introduced to the Six Nations in 2017.

What's next?

Italy welcome Wales to the Stadio Olimpico on March 13, with Ireland facing Scotland in Edinburgh a day later.

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