Sexton: All Blacks need to be careful with ‘high’ tackles

Johnny Sexton has warned New Zealand that any repeat of their strong-arm tactics from Dublin in 2016 will lead to red cards in today’s World Cup quarter-final.

Sexton: All Blacks need to be careful with ‘high’ tackles

Johnny Sexton has warned New Zealand that any repeat of their strong-arm tactics from Dublin in 2016 will lead to red cards in today’s World Cup quarter-final.

Fly-half Sexton believes Sam Cane and Malakai Fekitoa avoiding straight dismissals in New Zealand’s 21-9 win in Dublin three years ago sparked the sport’s crackdown on high tackles. Flanker Cane was only penalised for knocking out Robbie Henshaw with a head-high shot at a ruck, while centre Fekitoa was merely sin-binned for a crude high tackle on Simon Zebo.

New Zealand had reacted with unbridled fury to their 40-29 loss to Ireland in Chicago from a week earlier to reassert their authority in a pulsating encounter.

“I’m sure that’s what they’ll be speaking about going into this game, to go into it at full-tilt,” said Sexton. “As far as that second game in 2016 went, that was almost the turning point for a lot of the rule changes about high tackles. Some of the yellow cards that were given out and some things that were missed, they would be reds now.

“They probably weren’t intentional at the time, but if they happened now there would be different consequences. So I don’t think it will happen again. They had a game recently when they went down to 14 against Australia, so I’m sure they will be very disciplined on the day.”

Sexton will cast his country’s miserable World Cup quarter-final record far from his mind as Ireland make their latest attempt to reach the last four against New Zealand today.

“Of course we’d like it to be better but it is what it is,” Sexton said. “There’s nothing we can do about previous results now. All we can do now is concentrate on putting in our best performance tomorrow it’ll give us a chance and if we can walk off that pitch tomorrow having played our best, give it everything, we can look at ourselves afterwards no matter what.

That’s what we focus on. The record at the tournament, it’s not something that we’ve overly spoken about. Of course we know we can make history, we can create something a little bit special if we can do that. But, yeah, I can’t really speak about Ireland’s record because it’s been a different team every time.

Sexton revealed the good mood in the Irish camp had been further lifted by a visit to the team’s Tokyo Bay hotel form Irish impersonator Risteard Cooper, who joined the squad for lunch yesterday and took off head coach Joe Schmidt to the delight of his players.

Schmidt will step down after six years in charge whenever Ireland’s World Cup is over but Sexton was reticent to pay tribute just yet to the New Zealander who was also his head coach at Leinster for three seasons.

“I’ve spoken about Joe a lot. I’m going to get some serious slagging now when I get back. I already get a slagging for my relationship with Joe and I don’t want to delve any deeper! We had Risteard Cooper in for lunch today and he did a bit of a skit on Joe, which was very good and Joe took it very well.

“But look, Joe’s legacy really speaks for itself. We don’t want to get distracted by it being his last game, second last game, third last game, we want it to be...we’ll talk about him when it’s done. It will be the same for Rory (Best), but his legacy speaks for itself.”

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