Sexton sees future gems
Jonathan Sexton has urged new-look Ireland to seize the chance to establish the next golden generation of international stars.
The Irish head into Saturday's Guinness Series opener against South Africa at Aviva Stadium without their two injured Lions captains Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell. Seasoned campaigners Stephen Ferris, Rob Kearney, Rory Best and Sean O'Brien have also been lost to the treatment room.
But Sexton said: "We have to believe that we're good enough. We're obviously missing a lot of very good players throughout the team, but at some stage of their careers those guys that we're missing would have been the new kids on the block. It's time now for us to step up and start building the type of reputations those guys have."
He went on: "They developed those reputations by producing week-in, week-out for Ireland and hopefully we can start doing that now."
Little has gone Ireland's way as they seek to end a sequence of successive Test defeats dating back to England in the final match of the RBS 6 Nations.
Completing the run was the summer whitewash by New Zealand, who inflicted a humiliating 60-0 rout upon an Irish team that just a week earlier was on the brink of a first victory over the All Blacks.
Beating South Africa would ease the anguish of that result in June and Sexton insists the experience could yet prove useful.
"We took a lot of positives from the first Test and then learnt a lot from the second," he said.
"In that third Test we made three mistakes and were 21-0 down, then we were chasing the game which is very dangerous when you're playing the All Blacks. They picked us off and we've learnt from that if we ever go behind again, we'll never chase it that hard.
"If we can be in it with 20 minutes to go, well anything can happen in Test rugby We're concentrating on our performance against South Africa and trying to get things right when we have the ball."