Racing offer Sexton four-year deal now it’s over to the IRFU

Coach Laurent Labit reiterates Parisian club’s intent to build an empire around former Leinster outhalf

Jonny Sexton has been offered a four-year contract extension by Racing Metro 92. Photograph: Inpho

Jonny Sexton has been offered a four-year contract extension by Racing Metro 92. Photograph: Inpho

Sat, Aug 23, 2014, 01:00

The next move in the Jonathan Sexton saga is for the IRFU to make. That became apparent yesterday when Racing Métro 92 coach Laurent Labit reiterated the Parisian club’s intent to build an empire around the 29-year-old outhalf.

Sexton has been offered a lucrative four-year contract extension by Racing president Jackie Lorenzetti that would keep the Dubliner in the French capital until June 2019. “He has in his hands a contract for four more seasons at Racing,” said Labit.

“The deal for him is simple. Either he signs and ends his career here or he returns to Ireland. This is what he has to think about. But we know him, he’s okay with it. Of course, there are other elements involved. He has a child and he has to go away and discuss it with his wife.”

Sexton has, more than once, expressed the difficulties for his young family being exiled from the natural support base of family and friends.

Not that it was ever Sexton’s desire to leave Leinster. But in January 2013 his agent Fintan Drury negotiated a deal with Lorenzetti that the IRFU were unable to match.

Break new ground

It seems that the union must now break new ground to fend off Racing’s latest offer. An Irish player has never been given the security of a four-year contract – nor is it likely they could compete with what is presumably an improvement on the estimated €700,000 salary Sexton has commanded in his first two seasons in France.

Midi Olympique reported yesterday that he has until September 15th to make a final decision.

IRFU chief negotiator HR director Maurice Dowling has been drawn into this process earlier than is usual. Contact renegotiations regularly stretch into the New Year. But the deadline and stakes make this new territory for everyone in Irish rugby.

Before leaving Dublin to join up with the Lions last summer, Sexton said he felt the IRFU didn’t rate him enough to keep him at Leinster. “I’m sure if I was dealing with (Leinster) alone, I think they rate me,” said Sexton. “Maybe I’ll come back some day, maybe not . . .”

There was an attempt last summer to bring Sexton home but the cost of buying him out of his last year proved too costly. Another major consideration in all of this is Ireland.

Joe Schmidt was in Paris recently to discuss the upcoming World Cup season with the most valued member of his squad. Schmidt would have also held talks with Racing over access to Sexton for camps held outside the IRB’s international windows.

Last November Schmidt put Sexton’s hamstring injury, which undoubtedly contributed to the Australia defeat, down to the player’s overuse by Racing following the Lions tour.

Have been allayed

However, such concerns have been allayed somewhat by Lorenzetti signing Johan Goosen, the 22-year-old Springbok outhalf, to ensure last season’s heavy workload is not placed solely on Sexton’s shoulders as the club seek to win the French Top 14 and the new European Champions Cup.

“He won’t leave Racing without trying to win something, otherwise it will be a failure for him,” Labit added. “We can be sure of his commitment.

“We sure hope he will stay, especially since his son was born here, and in 20 years will be the outhalf of the France team!”

A counter offer, presuming there will be one, needs to be rubber-stamped by IRFU honorary treasurer Tom Grace and the committee.

“We’ve still got good links with Johnny,” said Leinster coach Matt O’Connor this week. “We’d be very keen to have a conversation if he chooses to come back.”

Leinster first lost Sexton in January 2013. They may lose him permanently in 2014.

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