Johnny Sexton New Favourite to be World Player of the Year

Ruben Holloway
November 20, 2018

Ireland will be boosted by the "chase" of New Zealand still holding onto their world number one ranking according to Luke McGrath as he heaped praise on Wigan RL legend Andy Farrell.

"Ireland are favourites, but there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before it (the Rugby World Cup) starts".

The way to beat a team who keep beating you is to keep playing them, over and over until all the necessary lessons have been learnt. Look, New Zealand has done very well out of succession planning, both in terms of players and coaching staff.

Perhaps most ominous for the reigning world champions is the belief of Joe Schmidt, the brains behind Ireland's remarkable rise, that his impressive green machine can improve further. "I guess they are favourites". Peter O'Mahony, Ireland's stoic flanker, was vast until his body finally gave way on the hour mark and the talismanic Jonny Sexton bossed the midfield and, crucially, outplayed his opposite number - two-time world Player of the Year Beauden Barrett.

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"We were at home, and they were coming off a long series of games where they have travelled around the world a number of times".

"But at the same time we're realistic, because we know how good those other teams are and we know how good we're going to have to be".

"We want to be as good as we can be, so we try to create our own expectation", he said.

Hansen, who said the team were "gutted" and the dressing room was somber, insisted that defeats can be turned into positives down the line.

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New Zealand, to their credit, accepted they had been outfoxed by Schmidt, who spends hours searching for fresh ideas - "I always steal them from someone else" - that can be tailored to his side's specific needs.

Barrett is bidding to become the first player to win the prestigious award three times in succession and had initially been priced up at the bookies' 5/4 favourite, with Sexton having been 7/4 with Paddy Power.

Ireland stunned the All Blacks with a classic set play from head coach Joe Schmidt, and Stockdale revealed his delight and relief at winding up as hero instead of zero.

"The All Blacks are giving away seven points on the handicap at odds of 11/10 and as they showed last week they are still the masters of the comeback and we have the visitors to be behind at half-time but to go on to win at 5/1 from 9/2".

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Given he was still in Ulster's academy when Ireland beat the All Blacks in Chicago, he was as thrilled as anyone at the final whistle.

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