DUBLIN – Jonathan Sexton says he and his Ireland team-mates want to make more history with a home win over world champions New Zealand in a clash of the top two-ranked teams in the world on Saturday.
The 33-year-old fly-half - who orchestrated Ireland's historic victory over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016 - believes if they seized their chance they could claim they are the number one team in the world.
Sexton, who will be without scrum-half Conor Murray with whom he has formed one of the most feared halfback partnerships in Test match rugby, says the best way to do that is to take the attack to their opponents.
"Over the years we've ticked off a little bit of history, so to beat them in Ireland for the first time would be another little bit of history that this group can create and it's one you don't want to let pass you by," Sexton told a press conference on Monday.
"These are the big games that you do all the work for, you do all the practice for. You don't get a chance, you know, they've been number one team in the world for nine years, you've got a small chance to change that.
"It's something not to go in on yourself but to go and attack and go and get rather than hope it happens."
Sexton, who admits they have to get on the right side of match day referee Wayne Barnes with whom he says they have had problems in the past, says the Irish have to execute their plan on how to beat the All Blacks to perfection.
'Dog it out'
"Yeah, look, you do get a sort of feel for what you have to do to beat them but then you've got to go and do it," he said. "That's the hardest part.
"So we'll have a great plan, we'll have some experiences of what's worked against them in the past, what hasn't worked and where they are the most dangerous but then you've got to go out and implement it.
"Hopefully that gets you close at the end and then dog it out."
Sexton, who admitted the Irish were a bit rusty in their 28-17 victory over Argentina on Saturday, says the greatest danger lies in the All Blacks ability to seize on one slip and change the complexion of the game.
"I've never played against a team that would capitalise on a mistake like they do," he said.
"In Pretoria, when they came from behind, they (South Africa) are on New Zealand's line, they're 12 points up with 10 minutes to go and you think 'game over'.
"They turn it over, go the length of the pitch and score. Then they score again.
"So, yeah, they really expose you when you're loose with the ball and so everything is a bit more important this week."
Sexton, who believes New Zealand will have taken heart from the manner in which they came from 15-0 down to beat England 16-15 on Saturday, says the Irish will have to be at the level they were in securing the Six Nations Grand Slam last season.
"We'll have to be close to it, yeah," he said.
"When you think about the last three times we've played them, we've had brilliant game plans and the times we've executed them really, really well we've done well.
"They're a quality team, they're going to at some stage have a purple patch, it's how we adapt and cope with them."
Agence France-Presse (AFP)