A disappointed Johnny Sexton after the game (Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
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Johnny Sexton says that people writing him off has fuelled his desire to continue at the top level to the next World Cup.
Sexton will be 38 by the time the 2023 finals come around. It was speculated that he could retire after the next Lions tour, which is scheduled for South Africa next summer but may not happen.
But he insists age should be no barrier to him continuing for Leinster and Ireland as long as he is the best out-half available.
The veteran no 10 takes inspiration from Brad Thorn, who was 36 years and 252 days old when he was in the All Blacks team that won the World Cup final.
He mentions Richie McCaw, who played at the top until he was 34, and Dan Carter – who, Sexton recalls, had an "incredible" 2015 World Cup at 33, "having been written off and struggling with injuries for numerous years – and then coming back and having that impact…".
He keeps in touch with Thorn and has quizzed him on the secret of his longevity, and done the same with Peter Stringer, Brian O'Driscoll, Donncha O'Callaghan, Nathan Hines and Paul O'Connell.
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton and Head Coach Andy Farrell
(Image: ©INPHO/Bryan Keane)
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"You're only a big injury away from being finished totally, no matter what age you are," he stated.
"Paulie would have continued on much longer if he didn't pick up that really bad hamstring injury.
"There's been guys that have gone to World Cups at 37, 38. It's not like it's totally alien or no-one has done it before, especially being an out-half.
"I'm not a player who has relied massively on pace over the years. So we'll see what happens.
"Do I think I can get there? I think I can. But at the age you're at, you've got to take it one year at a time. The big if now is next year if you do stay on and if you can keep your fitness and form.
"There's a lot to go into it but I'm still hungry, I still love the game, I still love competing, I still love training and being part of this team with Ireland and Leinster.
"I don't see any reason to stop."
Sexton joked that he got angry on the touchline watching Ireland in their last two games, the loss at Twickenham and the mediocre winning performance against Georgia.
It was frustrating that having not suffered from hamstring issues in his career, he had two to deal with in the past six weeks.
Ahead of planned contract talks in January, he wants to show on Saturday that he remains the head honcho.
"Yeah, massively," he said. "Why not?
"All I want to do is be the best I can be and if that means I'm the best out-half for any given game or whatever, then why shouldn't you play? That's the attitude I've got.
"I want to be the best out-half in Ireland and I still have aspirations for other things as well. Why not?
(Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)
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"I’m not going to just retire because you guys want me to. I’ll keep going if I feel good and I feel hungry and I know some past players want to retire me as well but I’ll crack on."
IRFU performance director David Nucifora said this week that age won't be the primary consideration for a new contract for Sexton next summer.
"I feel good. I feel good when I'm out there on the pitch and now it's just about getting out there, performing to prove that there's more in me," Sexton stressed.
"I feel I can get to another level. The day that's not there is the day I'll walk away.
"I haven't had those discussions yet about staying on. We'll do that when the time is right".