Belfast Telegraph

Lions Tour: We can grab this opportunity of a lifetime, says Sexton

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton has called on the British and Irish Lions to seize their "once in a lifetime" opportunity against the All Blacks tomorrow morning.

In his sixth Lions Test, the Leinster man faces the biggest game of his career as Warren Gatland's side look to become just the second set of tourists to take a series from New Zealand.

"I struggle sometimes with the nerves but this is once-in-a-lifetime stuff, so you have to treasure it," said Sexton.

"Potentially it's your last in a Lions shirt as you don't know what is down the line.

"You try and control the nerves the best you can and use them to your advantage. If you weren't nervous I would be pretty worried.

"It's down to the last game - two different sides and we are playing against the World Cup winners, but we are a better Lions side than four years ago."

A key part of the side's victory in the second Test was Sexton's promotion to the starting XV with England's Owen Farrell reverting to inside centre at the expense of Ben Te'o.

A hotly debated topic coming into the tour, the relationship between the pair looked strong throughout, just as it had in the Crusaders warm-up, and was key in the build-up to Taulupe Faletau's crucial try.

For his part, Sexton says he enjoys playing in tandem with the Saracens man.

"I've really enjoyed playing alongside Owen, it's great to have someone feeding in good information," Sexton said.

"At times last week he was first receiver and I was pushed out so that was good. We get on really well off the pitch, which helps, and hopefully we can improve again for Saturday and we need to.

"We showed glimpses of what we can do last week, so we're pretty excited to see where it all gets us.

"Combinations are really important, and when you get the bonus of playing with guys week after week you get to see the best of them.

"We will have learned a bit from last week and we can take it up a level, we feel we need to go up another level to beat them at Eden Park, that is the bottom line and a great challenge for us to try and get better again, and if we do it will be pretty special."

With so much having had to go their way to win last week in Wellington - most notably Sonny Bill Williams' early red card - Sexton has also stressed the need for the side to stay grounded and, crucially, make a fast start in what will be an incredibly vociferous Eden Park.

"But we aren't getting ahead of ourselves," he added.

"We know we won against 14 men and we made things tough for ourselves at the start of the second half.

"We need to match them first and after that find another way to beat them.

"They will be hurting after losing, they don't lose too often so they will be hurting. We need to match it.

"Match them in the first 10, 20 minutes and then impose ourselves on them," added the Leinster star.

Belfast Telegraph

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