Garry Ringrose to miss Ireland’s series decider against All Blacks with Peter O’Mahony a doubt

Johnny Sexton gives positive update on knee injury as he reflects on a ‘very special victory’ in Dunedin

Ireland have had mixed news regarding their injury list after levelling the three-Test series against New Zealand in Dunedin, with Garry Ringrose ruled out of next Saturday’s decider in Wellington and Peter O’Mahony a doubt. Against that, Johnny Sexton was optimistic about his chances of recovering from the knee injury which forced him off in the 73rd minute.

Ringrose suffered a confirmed concussion as a result of the head-to-head hit by Angus Ta’avao, which earned the All Blacks replacement prop a red card, and is thus automatically stood down for 12 days. O’Mahony failed his HIA1, and so under World Rugby’s recently revised protocols, will undergo a HIA 2 and a HIA 3 to determine if he suffered a concussion before determining whether he will be able to play in the third Test.

With Harry Byrne en route home due to another hamstring issue, Ciarán Frawley will again start at outhalf in Ireland’s second match against the Maori All Blacks on Tuesday. Andy Farrell quipped that Sexton would be playing in that game but there was good news from the captain himself on the knee injury which he limped off with in the 73rd minute.

“I’m okay. I just tweaked my knee a bit. I’ll be okay,” said Sexton regarding his availability for next Saturday. One imagines wild horses wouldn’t drag him out of that game after what he described as a very special victory – Ireland’s first over the All Blacks in New Zealand.


“Any time you create a little bit of history, it means a lot. It’s a very, very special day for everyone in the country,” said the remarkable Sexton, who turns 37 on Monday.

“We talk about it a lot, we talk about making people at home feel very proud of us. It’s right at the top of our list. I think the effort that we put in last week, we didn’t get the reward. Same effort again this week and it was touch and go.

It was by no means perfect. We feel that we could have played better in parts, but look, it’s a very special day

—  Johnny Sexton

“At half-time, I thought ‘Oh my God!’,” he admitted after the All Blacks trimmed Ireland’s lead to 10-7 with the last play of an eventful first half featuring one red and three yellow cards, and which lasted almost an hour. Nonetheless it was played out to a somewhat subdued atmosphere despite the near 30,000 sell-out under the Forsyth Barr roof.

“But the reaction in the second half was superb,” said Sexton. “To score with 14 men, obviously against 14, but to bounce back like we did was great. We stayed in the moment. It was by no means perfect. We feel that we could have played better in parts, but look, it’s a very special day.”

No doubt Sexton was reflecting on their failure to convert more from their numerical advantage and entries into the All Blacks’ 22, particularly in the first half. However, the Irish captain was proud of the improved defensive performance, Ireland missing only 14 tackles and making 173 in restricting the All Blacks to two tries after conceding six a week ago in Eden Park.

“I think it was a big improvement on last week. It was a part of our game where we felt we let ourselves down. They obviously had some great individual moments as well but we had a strong look at our defence this week and I thought we responded really well.

“The other thing is the turnover ball – if you’re playing the way we do, you make a mistake, the transition into that – you saw how dangerous they were at the end when Will Jordan came on, Sevu Reece as well – they’ve got electric players who can punish you at any time so the way we transitioned was much better tonight”

For Farrell, this historic win was not about what it meant to him.

“It’s what it means to the group. It’s not what it means to me at all. As Johnny has just alluded to there, we talk a lot about inspiring people back home and these lads, they keep turning up, they keep turning up and knocking down doors.

“The most special thing about tonight is no other Irish side will get a chance to do that again, will they? We talk not just about beating New Zealand in New Zealand for the first time, but there is a series to be won.

Look, we’ve created a little bit of history for ourselves, little old Ireland, we’ve earned the right to take it to the last weekend

—  Andy Farrell

“We have earned the right to have a go at that and there’s things that are going to happen in the future that we talk about. Somebody is going to do something sometime soon, or it might be further down the track. It might as well be in your time. It might as well be in your career. The lads buy in and they dig deep, they put in a performance like that.

Farrell was particularly pleased in the way Ireland prevented the All Blacks playing their customary quick game in this enclosed stadium.

“We started very quick last week and did exactly the same so that’s twice on the trot, which shows the courage of the players. But the most impressive thing was that we learned the lessons from last week about staying in the game, staying calm, focusing on the next moment.

“Of course there were errors like Johnny said but out mentality never changed. We didn’t get sucked in to the lure of the game of 13 men, 14 men, trying to play from everywhere. We kept them pegged down in their territory and the game control was outstanding.”

So, after winning none of the first 27 clashes, Ireland have now won four of the last seven.

Repeat, Ireland have now four of their last seven matches against the All Blacks.

This is all becoming oddly normal.

Of course, after each of the three previous victories the All Blacks have exacted retribution and, with the All Blacks now seeking to avoid a first series home defeat since France beat them 2-0 in 1984, Farrell knows they have poked the bear again.

“Well, they always give a response, don’t they, those lads?” said Farrell with a wry smile. “History tells you that. We’re used to it by now. We’ll look forward to that. Look, we’ve created a little bit of history for ourselves, little old Ireland, we’ve earned the right to take it to the last weekend, haven’t we, to see what we can do in the final week.

“There are bigger things to think about in regards to this tour for us,” added Farrell, who ventured that this performance will inspire the young players who encounter the Maoris again on Tuesday.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times