"It's very Irish to think, 'Oh, we have to take it easy now until the World Cup'" 3 weeks ago

"It's very Irish to think, 'Oh, we have to take it easy now until the World Cup'"

The scar tissue is considerable, at this stage.

Being around this Ireland squad, and their back-room team, must be an uplifting experience.

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Tadhg Beirne outlined, on Saturday night in Wellington, how the players had sat together after they had conceded six tries in losing 42-19 to the All Blacks and confidently told each other, we've got this.

When you consider that Leinster, the province with the biggest squad representation and the ones that had the most to take from last season, had lost out in a European final and a home semi-final, it had been a brutal four weeks.

Before the squad flew out to New Zealand, they all looked at each other in the eyes and agreed that making history in New Zealand was possible. Then they got tonked in their first two games.

To turn it around from there and win the final three tour games - clinching the Test Series 2-1, in the process - at the end of a gruelling season, in a country that eats, sleeps and breathes rugby is some going.

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The All Blacks look to be a team trying to rediscover what makes them so good, but they still had a line-up that included Codie Taylor, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barettt. Ireland beat them, and beat them well.

Following the game, Ireland captain Johnny Sexton spoke of his pride in leading his players, and tackled that most Irish of fears - GETTING AHEAD OF OURSELVES.

Johnny Sexton Ireland players, from left, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Jack Conan, Johnny Sexton, Joey Carbery, Gavin Coombes and Peter O’Mahony celebrate at Sky Stadium, in Wellington. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)
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'There's plenty more to play' - Johnny Sexton

In the press briefing room of Sky Stadium, in Wellington, still in his match kit and with head coach Andy Farrell by his side, Johnny Sexton explained that the sheer wildness of Irish celebrations were no disrespect to New Zealand.

It simply showed, he explained, how much a Test Series win over a side that have long been the standard bearers of elite rugby meant to all involved.

He was then asked that inevitable question about the World Cup and if Ireland could ride this wave for another 15 months. Until Ireland reach a World Cup semi-final, final or win the whole lot, fear of failure on the biggest stage will haunt many on this island.

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Ireland reached No.1 in the world ahead of the 2019 World Cup, topped their pool and then got flayed by New Zealand in a thoroughly one-sided quarter final. Number one again, Sexton addressed that most Irish of fears with some wise words.

"We've got a full season to play and it shouldn't be, 'Beat New Zealand and let's wait for the World Cup'," he said.

"There’s plenty more to play. There are big home games in November, there’s a Six Nations to play where we still haven’t achieved things we want to achieve in that.

"We got a Triple Crown this year but a championship or better would be something we’re aiming for, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be trying to progress and do that.

"It’s very Irish to think, 'Oh, we have to take it easy now until the World Cup'. No, let’s keep making the most of it, let’s keep getting better."

A big Roy Keane fan, those words would surely have the former Manchester United and Ireland captain nodding in approval.

What will help Ireland massively, over the next season, is if more younger players step forward and start pressing to break into this history-making squad.

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  • Why you should never underestimate Keith Earls.
  • Eddie Jones on Roy Keane’s ‘inspirational’ talk to the England rugby team.
  • How Johnny Sexton sets standards in training.

Watch these videos and more in our player below.