By Ed Elliot, PA, Dublin
Captain Johnny Sexton insists Andy Farrell’s Ireland have “done nothing really” as he targets major silverware to go with the scalps of New Zealand and world champions South Africa.
Ireland cemented their position at the top of the world rankings with Saturday’s rousing 19-16 success over the Springboks following a historic summer series win away to the All Blacks.
Fly-half Sexton kicked three crucial penalties in the statement victory at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to ensure Farrell’s men began their autumn campaign with a bang.
Yet, with an eye on the 2023 Six Nations and next year’s World Cup in France, the 37-year-old believes recent achievements count for very little.
“It’s a good start to the year, that’s it really,” said Sexton. “We’re building well but we have to win trophies.
“We had a Triple Crown, obviously very pleasing last year, but if you’re talking about championships, Six Nations, Grand Slams, World Cups, we’ve done nothing really, so you can’t compare it to teams that have won before.
“That’s the key to being a good team, winning trophies, and we haven’t done it yet. We’re building hopefully towards that.”
After a try-less first half ended 6-6, Ireland took control of the scoreboard thanks to quick-fire scores from Josh van der Flier and Mack Hansen.
The Springboks battled back and moved to within touching distance through tries from Franco Mostert and Kurt-Lee Arendse but the hosts dug in to record a 10th successive home victory.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 5, 2022
Sexton feels Ireland now have greater resilience and suggested they may have wilted under the pressure earlier on in the Farrell era.
“We gritted it out and that’s a very pleasing thing to say after playing South Africa,” he said.
“We spoke about it being a massive test for us before the game, so I can’t say different after it.
“We probably didn’t play our best rugby but that’s also a very pleasing thing. A couple of years we maybe would have crumbled or not shown the guts that we did there so it was very pleasing for lots of reasons.”
Ireland, who are awaiting to discover the extent of injuries to Stuart McCloskey (arm), Conor Murray (ankle) and Tadhg Furlong (ankle), will face the Springboks again in the World Cup pool stage.
Head coach Farrell dismissed talk of bringing the Webb Ellis Cup back to Dublin.
“We’re miles off it, there are so many things, different permutations that can happen along the way,” said the Englishman, whose side also face Fiji and Australia this month.
“I’ve no doubt that South Africa are going to get better leading into the World Cup, they’re pretty good at getting their timing right.
“It’s nice to play them after five years, to see our hand and how we handle the different types of pressure they throw at us.
“That’s great, it’s the start of our season and we move on to next week.”