Ireland Flyhalf Sexton To Leave Leinster For France

by
Reuters
Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton will leave European champions Leinster to play his club rugby in France next season, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said in a statement on Friday.

Jonathan Sexton

Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton will leave European champions Leinster to play his club rugby in France next season, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said in a statement on Friday.

Sexton, who won three Heineken Cups in four seasons with Leinster and has become one of Ireland's most influential players, has been linked by local media with a move to Racing Metro and was out of contract at the end of the season.

Racing declined to comment on the reported transfer.

The IRFU said it had made the 27-year-old a very strong offer but that ultimately "it would not be in the best interest of Irish rugby to chase the reported financial incentives being offered".

"Naturally, I'm disappointed. The offer he has received is exceptional, even by French standards, but I know that it was still a tough decision for him," Leinster coach Joe Schmidt added in the statement.

The big-money move caps a remarkable rise for Sexton who was playing alongside amateur players in Ireland's club league just four years ago, after briefly losing his Leinster squad place.

He led Leinster to their first European success five months later, kicking a spectacular drop goal from halfway in the 2009 win over Leicester, and wrested the Irish flyhalf jersey from Ronan O'Gara during the next couple of years.

The tall number 10, who had not yet been capped by Ireland when the British and Irish Lions last went on tour, will likely be among the starting XV when the Lions take on Australia in three tests this year.

Unlike in New Zealand where players who move abroad become ineligible to represent the national team, Sexton will remain available to play for Ireland, although the demanding French season will mean he misses some national team training camps.

However, the move is a big blow for Leinster who last week failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup for just the second time in nine seasons.