Rugby World Cup 2023: Ireland avoiding Sexton retirement talk says Kilcoyne

Dave Kilcoyne says Ireland's players have not yet contemplated life without talismanic captain Johnny Sexton.

The fly-half, 38, has returned from a lengthy absence in record-breaking form to lead Andy Farrell's men to the cusp of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

Sexton surpassed Ronan O'Gara as his country's all-time leading scorer in Saturday's 59-16 Pool B win over Tonga.

Asked if the squad have processed Sexton's looming retirement, prop Kilcoyne replied: "Being honest, no."

He added: "It hasn't really been talked about, him finishing up. He's just focused on the now, he's already talking about next week.

"What better way to do it than just keep performing as best as we can every week for him? That's what he wants.

"He doesn't want lads feeling sorry for him because it's his last tournament.

"He just wants to prepare the best he can every week and the team to prepare the best they can and leave no stone unturned in our prep. That's the best way you can reward him."

Sexton 'almost embarrassed getting credit' for record

Sexton registered a 24-point haul in an 82-8 success over Romania on the opening weekend of his farewell competition before adding another 16 against Tonga to move on to an unmatched career total of 1,090 in the green jersey.

With the world's number one team facing defending champions South Africa in Paris next Saturday, Sexton was replaced at half-time in Nantes.

Kilcoyne, who played the second half at Stade de la Beaujoire, believes there will be no let up as Sexton and head coach Farrell relentlessly drive standards and push for more.

"What an absolutely incredible achievement to get," said the loosehead of Sexton's new Ireland points record.

"But, I could see it in him, he felt almost embarrassed getting credit for it.

"He always wants more - he's such a highly driven individual but at the same time he's such a team-first man, such a selfless man.

"The relationship himself and Faz [Farrell] have, they're both similarly minded, they're both so highly driven, always want more, more, more."

Prop Dave Kilcoyne acknowledged the Ireland fans after Saturday's win over Tonga in Nantes.
Dave Kilcoyne came on at half-time in Ireland's win over Tonga for his first action since tearing a hamstring last month

Kilcoyne feels back to peak physical condition following his first outing since suffering a hamstring tear during last month's training camp in Portugal.

The 34-year-old is helping to keep spirits high among the squad by dishing out light-hearted punishments to team-mates guilty of misdemeanours alongside fellow "sheriffs" James Ryan and Jack Conan.

He said: "I don't shy away from it - law and order must be maintained in the squad! It's good craic.

"Faz encourages us all to be ourselves and to let your personality shine through and I've always been myself and I know how important it is to have real positive energy within the squad.

"It only takes one fella to be off, or to allow energy to dip or whatever but it's really important to have the squad morale right and if we can help out in any way with that we will."