Johnny Sexton says that Ireland being ranked as the number one team in the world doesn't mean anything  ahead of the SA game

Johnny Sexton says that Ireland being ranked as the number one team in the world doesn't mean anything ahead of the SA game

IRELAND CAPTAIN Johnny Sexton has played down Ireland's number one ranking ahead of the game against World Champions South Africa this weekend. 

Under Andy Farrell Ireland have become the number one side in the world after dismantling New Zealand on more than one occasion in the space of a year. 

Farrell last week asked his players to act like the best sides in the world, but Sexton isn't concerned with Ireland's rank. 

The 37-year-old believes that Ireland's status in the world rankings only matters when next year's World Cup gets underway. 

Honestly, it’s not something we talk about that much," the out half told the media on Tuesday. 

"It’s not a goal to become number one in the world. That might sound stupid, in some sports it is, like golf or tennis but in rugby the rankings matter once and it's like three years out from the World Cup when they matter, which doesn't make that much sense either. 

"But you don't speak about be number one in the world, you need to win the World Cup, that's where the goals are. 

"Obviously you want to be the best in Europe, you want to win the Six Nations, so those sort of goals have nothing to do with being world number one. 

"I don't think too many teams read too much into it, I know the other teams will probably refer to us now, trying to put pressure on us, but we don't speak about it." 

Despite the tough test this weekend Sexton hopes that the game against the Bok's will provide ample experience for an Irish side looking ahead to the World Cup in France in 2023 

Ireland will also play South Africa on September 23 at the Stade de France next year.  

Yeah look, if we got a win on Saturday, it would be great, if we don't then we learn from it," he said. 

"We're going to learn both ways. We're going to learn about South Africa, we're going to see what it's like to play against this type of team, we haven't played against them in a few years, and I think it's what we need. 

"They're in our group at the World Cup and we have to make sure we take the learnings from it, win, lose or draw, but we're going in there to try and win the game, don't get me wrong." 

"Obviously we have to give them the respect that they absolutely deserve. They're the best team in the world in terms of their world champions. 

"They're a top-class team. They've obviously won the World Cup; they beat the Lions and had some big results over the last few years so in terms of testing ourselves it's huge. 

"How we can get a result, we need to bring our game and make sure we do it even better because when you have a couple of results like we did in the summer teams start properly look at you and they go, 'how are we going to mess up this Ireland team? How are we going to combat this?'. 

"And we've got to do it better and we've got to evolve a little bit and make sure we bring something new to the table." 

Ireland's game against South Africa begins at 5.30 Saturday.

The Irish team will be announced on Friday midday