Irish Rugby
Sexton poised for Racing Metro switch?
ESPN Staff
January 25, 2013
Leinster's Jonny Sexton celebrates with the Heineken Cup,  Leinster v Northampton Saints, Heineken Cup Final, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, May 21, 2011
Jonathan Sexton will play for Racing Metro next season © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Johnny Sexton
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Teams: France | Ireland | Leinster

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has confirmed that Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton will leave Leinster at the end of the season with reports suggesting he has agreed a deal with French side Racing Metro.

The Irish Times reports that Sexton has signed a two-year deal with the Top 14 giants worth €750,000 a season. The IRFU reportedly offered Sexton a new contract that would have netted the player around €450,000 a year but it was not enough to convince him to extend his stay at the RDS.

The IRFU admitted the news was a significant blow and that they could not compete with the money on offer in France. "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," said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne. "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."

Racing are yet to confirm the transfer and it is understood that they cannot make any comment before April 21 as under French rules the signing of a player can only be made public when the transfer window for the season opens.

Browne is determined to keep hold of Irish rugby's leading players but admits the IRFU faces a constant battle to prevent a talent drain. "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."

"The offer he has received is exceptional, even by French standards"

Sexton has experienced huge success at Leinster and helped the province secure back-to-back Heineken Cup titles in 2011 and 2012. He has also flourished on the international stage and currently has 34 caps to his name for Ireland. And he looks to be the front-runner for the British & Irish Lions No.10 spot ahead of their tour to Australia in the summer.

Leinster will now have a massive gap to fill in their side and Joe Schmidt admitted he was "disappointed" by Sexton's decision. "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," Schmidt said. "The offer he has received is exceptional, even by French standards, but I know that it was still a tough decision for him."

If Sexton's destination is Racing Metro, then he will face competition for the No.10 shirt from both Olly Barkley and Jonathan Wisniewski with Juan Martin Hernandez also at their disposal. The Paris-based club are on a massive recruitment drive ahead of next season and have already secured Juandre Kruger, Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati's signatures with Wales stars Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts also reportedly in their sights.

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