Johnny Sexton confirms he is to leave Ireland


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?

By Jamie Hosie (Follow Jamie on Twitter @jhosie43)

12 thoughts on “Johnny Sexton confirms he is to leave Ireland

  1. To be fair, he’s pretty much achieved everything he can domestically with Leinster so why not take an eye-watering amount of money to go with the challenge of playing in a new league?

    The tax rebate will keep a lot of Irish players at home, and the provinces will still continue to provide pretty much all of the Irish teams players so I wouldn’t worry too much about a welsh style exodus to France within the Irish game. Sexton is in a bit of a unique position in that he has won a whole heap of trophies already and has played many times for the national team and is still relatively young and fit enough to take on the challenge of playing abroad with out shaming himself by being past it.

    Also, it provides an opportunity for others to stake a claim to the 10 shirt for Leinster and Ireland.

  2. You can’t blame Sexton for the move. Rugby players have such a short career, and that’s before you take into account the high risk nature of the sport.

    At the end of the day, the players have to earn a living, and they also have to consider that they might not get the same chances once they retire. If it was me, I would have taken it, and I think most people would have.

    Especially when considering Dan’s point as well. Sexton has won silverware with Leinster, he might as well try for new accolades and new experiences. This could be a huge boost to his game.

  3. Will Leinster recruit or will they go with madigan backed up by Noel Reid? It’s a big decision for them. It’s not like there is an abundance of 10’s out there as good as sexton.

  4. I wish him the best of Luck the IRFU offered him 300,000 initially and he will get 750 plus a tidy sum from irfu if he is still picked for ireland which he probably will be.

  5. I think the tax rebate won’t be enough to keep the top Irish players now that this precedent has been set. Everyone talks about the “Welsh Exodus” but the numbers indicate this is France taking the cream, not the bulk.

    They can do the same with Irish players – 750K vs 300K means that the tax rebate became irrelevant especially as France also has very favourable tax setups for foreign “professionals” plying their trade in France.

    As for the “trophies” argument – he’d have gone for 750K even if he’d won nothing with Leinster. 15K a week is more than a lot of footballers earn… He was never going to turn that down and also could point to the fact that with him, Jamie Roberts and Lydiate turning up there next year it’s not as if he’s leaving a club that can win trophies for one that won’t.

    France will take all of the best players soon regardless of where they are currently plying their trade – the Welsh Exodus looked like a particularly Welsh problem for a brief moment due to the incredibly high stock of our WC semi-final/Grand Slam players. Now they’ve all been swiped the French eyes are turning to the other countries. The IRFU have admitted they’ll need to follow the Welsh model (i.e. not even try to compete on salary) so it’s open season now.

    England’s best flyhalf and 7 already play in France (and some people think their best loosehead also does).

    1. So does Iain Balshaw, but they are welcome to keep him…

      I wonder how long it will be till the French authorities put some kind of cap on foreign players?

      We’ve already seen Phillipe Saint Andre complaining about the lack of french fly-halves and one of the reasons given was that so many of the club fly-halves are foreign

      If a cap is put in place, we’ll still see some of the top players heading over (and why wouldn’t you? Its lots of money and a pretty good lifestyle on the whole) but at least the exodus will slow

      The only action the home unions can take is to only accept those who play in the UK to be chosen for their national side and to stick to that rule. For some players that will be enough to keep them, for others and particularly those who are coming to the end of their career, it won’t

      1. The French do have a cap on foreign players. It is a ‘crawling’ cap, in that the minimum percentage of French qualified players, in each Pro 14 squad, increases each year.

  6. How much reliance should be put on the salary figures? I’m pretty sure that Racing haven’t even confirmed the move, let alone the money.

  7. Hi, from a point of view of a French, (based in Paris), this is of course a big loss for Leinster & Ireland. Despite rugby is a team sport, individual decision still is the key for a career and with money, rugby has become a sport like football. Money can buy everything. Hope Sexton will be as good in Paris as he was with Leinster & Ireland (which is not sure as French rugby is really different played)

    ComeOn Sport

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