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Johnny Sexton has stressed that Ireland need to keep evolving if they are to succeed at next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Ireland have very pressing matters to attend to before attention can turn to the World Cup, with the first of three test matches against the All Blacks taking place at Eden Park this Saturday.

A disappointing performance against the Māori All Blacks aside, Ireland have been very impressive in recent months, as they have won seven of their last eight test matches since November, which includes a triumph against New Zealand.

Sexton was speaking to Sky Sports ahead of Saturday’s match and explained that Ireland are eager to avoid the mistakes of the last World Cup cycle, where they peaked a year too early.

Johnny Sexton on Ireland’s need to evolve.

“We were written off left, right and centre and we’ve come back and we’ve showed some great stuff,” Sexton said.

“We’ve had some great results to go with it because we were always saying, ‘it’s coming, it’s coming’ and I think people were looking at us going, ‘is it really?’.

“And now we’ve got to keep it going. We’ve got to keep improving because that’s the mistake we made in the last cycle for the World Cup – we probably peaked in 2018 and we didn’t continue to evolve and that’s what we’re keen to not let happen.

“We’ve got some fresh faces on this tour that we need to get up to speed that we need to create that really competitive environment for the next World Cup.”

A daunting task at Eden Park awaits.

Ireland have endured a rough start to their tour of New Zealand, as they suffered a 15-point loss to the Māori, while a number of players have been ruled out due to either injury or Covid-related reasons.

It won’t get any easier for Ireland on Saturday either, as they take on the All Blacks at Eden Park, a stadium at which the hosts haven’t lost since 1994.

Andy Farrell has named a strong side for the first test, although they are without a number of first-choice players, such as Ronan Kelleher, Iain Henderson and Andrew Conway.

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