Sexton celebrates 'very special day' but knows series win 'won't mean anything' at World Cup

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Johnny Sexton was determined to enjoy Ireland's historic series win in New Zealand, even if he recognises there remains work to do ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup.

Ireland headed to New Zealand for a three-match series having never won an away Test against the All Blacks.

They ended that wait last week to set up a decider in Wellington, where the tourists sensationally snatched the series with a 32-22 success.

The result was no less than Ireland deserved, with their 19-point half-time lead the largest any team has ever enjoyed at that stage of a Test against New Zealand.

Although the All Blacks rallied after the break, with Andrew Porter heading to the sin bin, Sexton helped to keep his side ahead having passed 1,000 international points in the first half.

"It's a very special day, because we're playing against the best in the world, the very best," Sexton told Sky Sport in the post-match presentation. "To come down here and do it is very, very special."

Sexton said Ireland have learned the hard way about getting carried away. This result comes a year out from the 2023 World Cup – a competition that Ireland have yet to win, or even make the semi-finals of, despite being one of the world's best teams over an extended period.

"It means a lot now," Sexton said. "I know in a year's time, when the World Cup starts, it won't mean anything, as we've learned before.

"But we'll certainly enjoy tonight – and maybe a couple more days. Then we've got to keep improving; that's what we've learned from previous years: we've got to keep improving.

"This group of boys, with the management we've got, they're a very special group, and I'm proud to be part of it."

Sexton paid special tribute to Ireland coach Andy Farrell.

"It's clear how much belief [is in the team], and it starts with the main man, with Faz," he said.

"He's come in here, he's changed things, he was brave at the start and he stuck with some older lads and got criticised, he brought in some younger lads, he's just done an amazing job. It's all credit to him, really."

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