Sexton new chairman of players' association

Tue, Sep 11, 2012, 01:00

JONATHAN SEXTON has replaced Brian O’Driscoll as chairman of IRUPA. The Irish players’ representative body, under the guidance of chief executive Omar Hassanein, felt the need to involve a player in a younger age bracket than the current board of directors to ensure continuity over the coming years.

Sexton turned 27 in July.

The playing directors of IRUPA are Shane Jennings (Leinster rep), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Rory Best (Ulster) and Gavin Duffy (Connacht).

“I was probably one of those guys sitting in meetings with a strong opinion on player matters and the guys like Omar, Brian and Shane obviously saw the benefit of not just throwing my opinion out on the floor but sitting in on a few meetings,” Sexton told The Irish Times yesterday.

“I’ve been kept busy in the last number of years, finishing off my commerce degree, and having done that, this is a new challenge I’m really looking forward to and a good opportunity for me as well.”

O’Driscoll has not severed links with the operational level of IRUPA as the Irish captain will sit on the newly formed IRUPA/IRFU Player Services Board, which aims to promote the importance of players’ careers and their personal development. This board will have three IRFU appointees along with current professionals.

“For the past few months, we’ve been discussing how we can continue to grow IRUPA and ensure it has a continued positive impact on the game for many years to come,” said O’Driscoll.

“We felt that Johnny would be the ideal person to ensure that we keep momentum and continue growing our influence on the game.

“I myself look forward to getting more involved in the career development side of things and in ensuring that players are afforded every possible opportunity in their lives outside of rugby.”

Hassanein said of Sexton’s appointment: “We’ve been planning for some months to directly involve Johnny in our organisation. He is a very capable individual and is very enthusiastic about the collective player cause.

“To add to this, he is well respected by the IRFU and the key stakeholders within the game, making him an important cog in the longer term development of our organisation.

“Brian has been a fantastic contributor as chairman for the past year and a half and will no doubt continue to have a positive impact on our organisation.”

Sexton sees the role of IRUPA chairman as an opportunity to enhance opportunities for team-mates planning for life after rugby but also to deal with more immediate issues like protecting the wages of injured players.

“Getting into life after rugby is one of our biggest challenges and our biggest worries – having something to fall back on after rugby,” Sexton continued. “Since Omar has come in we have made big strides to improve the player services programme.

“We’ve also done some great work looking after players when they are injured. Making sure they get paid the right amount over the right period of time so they are not rushing back from serious injuries so that they don’t lose wages.

“I’ll be a sounding board between Omar and the players, listening to their opinions and giving my own.”

IRUPA are also changing their independent (non-playing) directors. Pádraig Ó Ceidigh is stepping down for personal reasons, while Ken Belshaw has been “strategically shifted” on to the Player Services Board.

“We feel we can better utilise his skills and his vast experience as director of Grafton Employment Group,” said Hassanein

The new non-playing directors will be announced once they are ratified at tomorrow’s board meeting.

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