Ireland's call Johnny Sexton: 'We have a few more steps to go to become a champion side'
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton admits that his side face a massive test, in order to prove that they have improved since their humbling at Twickenham back in February.
Sexton will undergo a scan on his hamstring today, the results of which will determine if the 35-year old will be available to face England next weekend.
Ireland will return to the scene of what was a damaging Six Nations defeat in London earlier this year.
But Sexton is confident that his side have moved on since then, and that Ireland now have the tools to go toe-to-toe with an exceptional England team.
“We obviously started the Six Nations well... well we started average against Scotland,” Sexton reflected after Ireland's impressive 32-9 win over Wales in last night's Autumn Nations Cup opener.
“We felt we didn't play brilliantly, although Scotland did quite well on the day. We kinda got a little bit lucky that day.
“We improved massively to play Wales and then we got found out a little bit in Twickenham.
“England are one of the top sides in the world, top two or three at least. You look at their squad, their third choice centre is as good as their first. They have got a massive squad and every player is as good as the next.
“So, (it's a) massive challenge for us, but it's a great fixture for us to see how far we have come in eight months. It feels like three years.
“It's a great test for us to go over and see if we can improve on our last performance over there.”
The key word Andy Farrell used to sum up Ireland's performance was “dominant”, which was timely really because if Ireland are to have any hope of upsetting England in their own backyard, then they will need to front up physically.
The importance of the manner of Ireland's win at the Aviva Stadium last night was not lost on Sexton either.
“Wales have a very experienced team,” the skipper said.
“You look at the amount of caps that they have, the captain they have, the calibre of player. Only last year, they won the Grand Slam.
“We are very proud of ourselves with the result tonight. Some aspects of our performance were outstanding, but we can go again and be better, and we need to be better going over to Twickenham.
“We'll enjoy tonight and sit down and watch England play Georgia and go again next week.”
Farrell will hope that the win over Wales can reignite his tenure in charge, but no one is underestimating the scale of the challenge that lies ahead in Twickenham next Saturday.
“Look, it was a very disappointed camp for the first week really,” Sexton added.
“We have had to pick ourselves back up from the disappointment of one (loss to France) that we felt got away and one we wish we could go back and play again, but you don’t get second chances in professional sport.
“I thought we were much better tonight in certain areas but I still think we need to take a step up in terms of accuracy and being clinical.
“We had a few chances that if Wales had scored straight after half-time, it’s an even game, whereas the dominance we had in the first half wasn’t really reflected on the scoreboard.
“There are lots of small things to pick up on but there was much better intent all round and much better attitude in the way we prepared and everything like that. We thought we prepared well for France but, in hindsight, a few guys felt we weren’t right on it.
“You live and learn and thankfully we bounced back well enough and we’ve got a few more steps to go to become a champion side.”