'It's unfinished business' - Johnny Sexton insists Ireland haven't peaked too soon ahead of World Cup
Johnny Sexton has insisted that Ireland can deliver their best form at the World Cup as the team target a best-ever showing a the tournament in Japan.
Ireland entered the 2019 Six Nations championship off the back of a sensational 2018 that saw Joe Schmidt's side win a Grand Slam, claim a series victory in Australia as well as a win over the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium.
However, despite winning three games during the Six Nations, Ireland also suffered two heavy defeats against England and Wales. Question marks now surround Ireland's World Cup prospects, with a difficult quarter-final against either the All Blacks or South Africa looking likely.
Ireland have never advanced beyond the last eight at the World Cup and Johnny Sexton is determined to at least make a semi-final in what will be his last appearance at the showpiece event.
"I don't think we have peaked," Sexton said.
"I didn't think we'd peaked when we won the Grand Slam and I didn't think we'd peaked when we beat the All Blacks either.
"It's amazing how opinions can change in the space of a couple of months.
"We beat the All Blacks and all the talk was 'nothing's going to stop us winning the World Cup' and then three or four games later, we're the worst team ever and people think we've peaked.
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"We've got time together now to really work on things through the summer."
Ireland have suffered a number of disappointing World Cup defeats over the years, including coming up short at the quarter-final stage in both 2011 and 2015. With Rory Best and Joe Schmidt set to leave the set-up after the tournament in Japan, Sexton is keenly aware of how important it is for Ireland to deliver in the autumn.
"For everyone that's going, it's unfinished business," Sexton added.
"We feel we maybe let it slip at the last World Cup and there's been some regrets from some of the other ones I was at too.
"In 2011 we had that quarter-final against Wales, knowing that if we won that - and we'd beaten Wales a few times - that we could have had France in the semi-final.
"Sitting and watching then [against Argentina in 2015] was very, very tough. You want to be out there with the guys, contributing with them and being in the dressing room afterwards was probably the lowest point, watching the lads suffering and not being part of it.
"So, there's always those regrets.
"That's why we'll be working extremely hard over the summer, to make sure we try and close those small margins in our favour and make sure we come away having done something special."
Ireland rugby star Johnny Sexton visited Caherline National School, Limerick, to deliver a coaching masterclass to students as part of the MACE, “Going the Extra Smile” campaign.
Caherline National School won the prize thanks to their random act of kindness in their local community. MACE, Ireland’s longest serving convenience brand, is rooted in local communities with over 160 stores nationwide.