Flyhalf Johnny Sexton says Ireland are ready to peak in their quarter-final against the All Blacks in Tokyo in Saturday.
Ireland’s four performances in the competition to date have been indifferent and they finished second in the Pool A standings after slumping to a shock 19-12 defeat by hosts Japan.
As a result, Ireland have come under some criticism, but Sexton has come out and questioned what he believes to be ‘strange’ negativity around their World Cup campaign.
‘There’s been some negativity around us and we’d feel that’s been pretty strange. We’ve been building pretty well and apart from that poor 60 minutes against Japan, everything else has pretty much gone to plan,’ Sexton said.
‘We’re very self-critical in terms of our performances and obviously after the Japan game, we would have liked to have done things differently. But we knew how good a team Japan were, so we always knew that would happen if we didn’t play well, and it did happen,’ he added.
Ireland have never progressed beyond a World Cup quarter-final, but Sexton is adamant that they are ready deliver a top performance against the more-favoured All Blacks as they go in search of a maiden RWC semi-final appearance.
‘I’m hoping that having lost a pool game that we’ve got that quarter-final performance out of our system that we’ve had in other tournaments,’ explained Sexton.
‘The way we played against Japan was probably very similar to the way we played in the quarter-finals against Wales (2011) and Argentina (2015) in the last two tournaments. The difference now is we’re not favourites going into this quarter-final whereas we were in the last two.
‘So, we’re building nicely, we haven’t hit our best performance yet and we need to get close to that to get the right result on Saturday. It makes a big difference having everyone fit, even just for the quality of training.
‘I remember that Argentina week. We had guys like Vinny Hammond [analyst] running against us, and it wasn’t the best quality opposition, physically and personally.
‘But this week we have everyone fit, we’ve two good sides for training, so we can make the most of it.’
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