World Cup exit will mark me for rest of my life, says Sexton

Dublin (AFP) –


Johnny Sexton said the disappointment of Ireland exiting the World Cup at the quarter-final stage will remain with him and his team-mates for the rest of their lives.

The 34-year-old -- whose underwhelming performance in the 46-14 thrashing by New Zealand summed up Ireland's poor showing -- denied the Irish had cracked under the pressure.

Ireland had looked certainties last year to reach at least the semi-finals for the first time after achieving the Six Nations Grand Slam for only the third time in their history and going on to beat the All Blacks for the first time at home.

However, their performances in Japan -- losing to the hosts in the pool stage and then the humbling at the hands of the All Blacks -- reflected a notable decline in their form through the year.

Sexton was emblematic of the loss of form rarely reaching the heights that had seen him scoop the World Player of the Year award for 2018 when Ireland handler Joe Schmidt won coach of the year.

"Yeah, it'll be raw for four years," said Sexton at the launch of this season's European Champions Cup in Cardiff.

"It'll be raw for lads that go to the next World Cup, for the lads that don't, for the rest of their careers, for the rest of their lives really."

Sexton, who was at the launch representing Leinster with whom he has won the trophy four times, said there was no escaping how to describe their campaign.

"As a failure," he said.

"You can have opinions on why but it is a failure.

"We didn't do what we wanted in the Six Nations.

"We didn't do what we wanted in the World Cup so there is no other way to look at it."

Sexton confirmed the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) were going to ask an outside company to review the campaign and ask all involved their opinion.

"What won't happen is no one will be thrown under the bus," he said.

"There's no one person at fault for this, there was no one person you can point the finger at."

Despite the disappointment Sexton said he had not thought about retirement and wanted to carry on as long as he remained fit and his coaches at Leinster and Ireland deemed him up to the task.

"I am contracted for this season and for next season," he said.

"My body feels great. I am obsessed with trying to play for as long as I can.

"There have been plenty of 37-year-olds (Sexton will be 38) going to Rugby World Cups and I would love to add my name to that list.

"But, there are lots of things that have to happen."

Leinster begin their European campaign with a home tie against Italian side Treviso. Northampton Saints and Lyon are the other teams in Pool 1.