Ireland's Sexton set for 100th Test milestone against Japan

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Ireland rugby legend Johnny Sexton will win a landmark 100th cap for his country on Saturday when he captains them against Japan (AFP/STU FORSTER)

Irish rugby legend Johnny Sexton will join the likes of compatriots Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell in winning his 100th cap for his country when he captains the side in the Autumn Nations Series Test against Japan on Saturday.

The 36-year-old fly-half -- who made his debut against Fiji in 2009 -- reaches the landmark appearance against a side he has never played before.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said Sexton was a "once in a generation player."

"I could carry on on the same subject for years to come and not just this week," Farrell said at a press conference on Thursday.

"He is a once in a generation player... I mean, how many of those are about now and how many of those are coming through? It is pretty rare in any sport and that says it all."

Sexton has said he would like to carry on until the 2023 World Cup, although the next stage is to see whether his one-year contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union is renewed after next year's Six Nations.

For Farrell, though, he remains the benchmark and his rivals such as Joey Carbery -- who is on the bench -- have a way to go yet to replace him.

"If Johnny is healthy and competing at the top of his game people need to knock him off his perch," he said.

"Whether it be (Ulster's) Billy Burns, Harry (Byrne of Leinster) or Joey, they have to become a better player if they want that shirt.

"He is not going to give it up easily. You don't just want to hand something over to someone who does not deserve it. That is is not a squad."

Sexton's long-time half-back partner Conor Murray, though, will not start alongside him as he is on the bench.

Sexton's Leinster team-mate, New Zealand-born scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, will partner him.

Another Leinster star prop, Tadhg Furlong, is also named in the starting XV and wins his 50th cap.

Dan Sheehan looks set to claim his first cap as the hooker is named among the replacements.

Ireland lost to Japan in their 2019 Rugby World Cup group clash which Sexton missed through injury but gained a measure of revenge beating the Japanese 39-31 in July.

Team (15-1)

Hugo Keenan; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Jack Conan; Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris; James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne; Tadhg Furlong, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Keith Earls

Coach: Andy Farrell (ENG)


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