Ireland’s Johnny Sexton says he is struggling to comprehend the negativity he feels is being aimed at his side. The fly-half has continued to battle a thigh injury in Japan, missing the 19-12 defeat against the hosts, a result that prompted accusations of complacency to be aimed at the squad.
Bonus-point victories against Scotland, Russia and Samoa were enough to see Joe Schmidt’s side finish second in Pool A and they now face New Zealand in the last eight on Saturday. It will be an emotional occasion for Schmidt, as not only will he be facing his homeland, the 54-year-old may also be coaching the Irish for the final time after announcing he will not renew his contract.
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After beating New Zealand 16-9 last November, a third-place finish in the 2019 Six Nations saw the Irish accused of peaking too early. Sexton, who is expected to play in Chofu, has ridiculed this view though, saying that barring a poor period against Japan, everything has been positive about his country’s campaign.
“There’s been some negativity around us and we’d feel that’s been pretty strange,” Sexton said. “But we’re really confident in how we’re building. We’d like to be playing a bit better in some regards at times, but hopefully we can put that performance out there on Saturday. “We’re very self-critical in terms of our performances and obviously after the Japan game we would have liked to have done things differently.”