'He's changed the expectations' - Johnny Sexton fires back at Joe Schmidt critics

Ireland first-five Johnny Sexton has gone into bat for Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt, following criticism over his side's failure at this year's Rugby World Cup.

Your playlist will load after this ad

The Ireland coach says he supported New Zealand since he was three or four years old. Source: 1 NEWS

Having headed to Japan among the bookies' favourites to lift this year's World Cup, Ireland looked a shadow of the side that had defeated the All Blacks twice since 2016.

Schmidt's time with the team ended when they lost 46-14 to New Zealand in the quarter-finals. 

Now stepping away from coaching for family reasons, Schmidt came under fire from certain sections of the Irish fan base, former captain Brian O'Driscoll saying that the side had "failed to evolve the team when he needed to" and "we ran out of ideas."

Another former Ireland international, halfback Tomas O'Leary, added that:

"Over the last 18 months, the ambition hasn't been evident. We haven't been pushing the pen to try and be more expansive or get more passes on the ball. It's been very regimented."

Your playlist will load after this ad

The former Ireland coach has ruled himself out due to family reasons. Source: 1 NEWS

However 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year Sexton stood up for the Kiwi coach, hailing his transformation of Irish rugby.

"You just think about the success he's had," the first-five said at the launch at the new season of the new European Champions Cup season.

"He has the best win percentage by a country mile. He's changed the expectations of Irish rugby, of Irish supporters. He did it in Leinster and did it again.

Your playlist will load after this ad

Schmidt said the team had always aimed to peak at the World Cup but couldn’t replicate their recent form. Source: 1 NEWS

"If we had done what he asked of us in the quarter-final, would we have won it? We'll never know, because we didn't do it.

"We should take the majority of the blame as players, but his legacy in the players' eyes will always be there."

Schmidt was at one point considered among the favourites to succeed Steve Hansen as All Blacks coach, before announcing his hiatus from the game last November.