Sexton to leave Leinster for France
Rugby:Ireland and Leinster outhalf Jonathan Sexton is believed to have signed a two-year contract with French side Racing Metro having informed the IRFU that he would not be renewing his contract with them. The 27-year-old is set to join the Paris club in the summer and become the highest paid Irish rugby player of all time, earning €750,00 per year.
The move comes as a huge blow to Leinster coach Joe Schmidt, who himself signed a one-year extension to his contract with the province that will keep him in Ireland until the end of the 2013-14 season.
In a statement released through the IRFU, Schmidt said: “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.”
Commenting on Sexton’s decision, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said: “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.”
Racing, whose squad currently includes the likes of Argentinean international backs Juan Martin Hernandez and Juan Imhoff, France international hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and ex-England outhalf Olly Barkley, have yet to comment on any move for Sexton.
But it is understood that he will join Wales and Lions centre Jamie Roberts as Racing’s headline arrivals for next term.
Roberts’s departure from the Cardiff Blues was announced during this season’s autumn internationals.