'We weren’t fit enough in 2013' - Johnny Sexton explains why Ireland are better prepared for All Blacks now
Ireland out-half still rues missed chance against New Zealand
Johnny Sexton has admitted that Ireland paid the price for not being fit enough when they let a historic first victory over New Zealand slip through their grasp in the dying stages three years ago.
The Ireland out-half insisted that Joe Schmidt has brought the squad's fitness levels to new heights and he has backed Ireland to prove that lessons have been learned since the last-gasp defeat.
Ireland were 19-0 in front against the All Blacks in 2013 before they were beaten by two points but Sexton is adamant that the current squad is in a much better place to seal a first win over the double world champions.
"That was one of the lessons we learned from that New Zealand game, we probably weren't fit enough," Sexton said.
"We tired badly at the end. We probably learned that the subs have to have more impact when they come on. They have to add positively to the team.
"There was a massive emphasis on the squad of 23, massive emphasis on our conditioning. Hopefully we'll be in a better place now to take them on again.
"It was a new management team at that stage with Ireland. They probably learned a lot from that game as well. I think we probably train a bit different now. We train for that more than we did back then. Joe had only been in the job a couple of weeks at that stage.
"Now we're well used to his methods and we train almost faster than we play in many ways. It's more intense but for shorter periods of time.
"Everything is built towards those high intense periods where he tries to fatigue us in training and put us in those situations again. Like I said, it probably all stems back to that one game."
Sexton has shrugged off a hamstring complaint to take his place in Ireland's 34-man squad for next weekend's showdown with New Zealand in Chicago.
Thirty-six-year-old Mike Ross was left out by Schmidt who named six players including Garry Ringrose, Joey Carbery and John Ryan in the squad for the first time.
Keith Earls will miss the game, however, after he was suspended for two weeks for a dangerous tackle in Munster's win over Glasgow last Saturday. An appeal is unlikely.