Johnny Sexton has revealed that the Ireland squad are already speaking about preparing for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Ireland captain Sexton is in no way guaranteed to still be playing professionally by the time the World Cup comes around as the fly-half is currently 36 years old, but he certainly hasn’t shied away from the topic.
Andy Farrell’s men have three test matches coming up next month against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina, and while Ireland will be aiming to win each of those, the blooding of younger players is also a priority.
Sexton was speaking at an Ireland press conference and explained that the attitude in camp is more geared towards the World Cup than it has been at any other point in his career while still two years out from the tournament.
Johnny Sexton on Ireland’s World Cup mindset.
“There is a difference already because we have mentioned the World Cup two years out. We have sort of put it on the radar whereas we have never done that before as long as I have been involved,” Sexton said, via The Irish Times.
“It has always been that we talked about the World Cup the summer of. We have always been very focused on what’s in front of us and we still are but I suppose you can see through the group in the young fresh faces, the younger generation coming through, that it is a focus.
“And why shouldn’t it be? It’s the biggest thing that you can do in the game and everyone wants to get there and do well in it.
“It’s great to have it there in the back of your mind as something to strive for because if you view it as a journey, well then there is always that endpoint that you can strive towards.”
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Veteran captains at the RWC are nothing new.
Sexton will be the 38 by the time the next World Cup kicks off in France, and while that is certainly older than the average international skipper, he wouldn’t be the first man to be almost 40 and lead his country on the biggest stage.
South Africa’s Victor Matfield captained his country at the age of 38 the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and despite their loss to Japan in the pool stages, the Springboks ultimately claimed third place at the tournament.
Rory Best was 37 when he captained Ireland at the last World Cup in Japan, while Alun Wyn Jones is looking increasingly likely to captain Wales in France in two years time.
Sexton has struggled with numerous injuries over the last couple of years, but when he does play he still looks more than capable of playing international rugby and is still clearly Ireland’s best option at fly-half.