Johnny Sexton, the Ireland and Leinster fly-half, has confirmed that he will not be renewing his contract with the IRFU for next season. He has instead signed a two-year contract with Racing Metro 92, the Paris-based club, with a salary of €750,000, making him the best-paid Irish player of all time.
Phillip Browne, Chief Executive of the IRFU, released the following statement: “We are very disappointed, as we know the Irish rugby public will be, that Johnny Sexton will not be playing his rugby full time in Ireland from next season. Johnny is a major talent and his full time presence in Ireland will be missed, particularly by Leinster. We wish Johnny continued success with his career and he will receive all the support he needs over the next number of weeks in what we know was a very difficult decision for him.
“While we remained in the fight right up until the last possible moment to keep Johnny in Ireland with a very strong offer, ultimately, following negotiations with the player’s agent, we had no option but to take the decision that it would not be in the best interest of Irish rugby to chase the reported financial incentives being offered.
“The IRFU has made a commitment to, and been largely successful in, keeping as many Irish players as possible playing full time in Ireland. However, we have always recognised that some of our players will be targeted by overseas clubs with offers which, quite simply, are not within our orbit.
“While Johnny has made the decision to move on to a new club, the IRFU is fully committed, together with the provinces, to maintaining its programme of nurturing and retaining Irish rugby talent. We feel that the benefits of the careful and considered management of those players will allow us to maintain this policy.”
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt also spoke of his disappointment that Sexton would be leaving: “Naturally, I’m disappointed. I’ve really enjoyed Johnny’s input over the last few years and he has added tremendous value to the Leinster environment both on and off the field. The offer he has received is exceptional, even by French standards, but I know that it was still a tough decision for him.”
What do you think of the move? Is it a sensible career decision, or a betrayal of the national team that have nurtured him to this point?