JONATHAN SEXTON TOLD TheScore.ie this week of the teak-tough decision he faced when it came to sticking to his words and choosing a summer move to Racing Metro.
While the IRFU stalled over contract negotiations, baulking at the idea of a four-year contract for the outhalf, Sexton’s representatives sounded out French Top 14 clubs and found plenty of offers. Sexton will head for France following the Lions Tour to Australia but the fact that he will be reunited with Leinster’s Joe Schmidt, in his new role as Ireland head coach, has softened the blow of leaving home.
Sexton told TheScore.ie, “Leaving Leinster, it will be tough to leave my friends, my home and my home team but it would also be tough to leave Joe as a coach; a big regret. Now, hopefully, I’ll still get the chance to work with him. The Leinster lads would have liked if he had stayed on, from their point of view, but they get to work with him still [with Ireland] and I’m sure Matt O’Connor will do a great job.” Sexton added:
He’s an outstanding coach. I think Ireland have got the right man. I was sad to see Declan [Kidney] go; he’s done a lot for me, did a great job and was unlucky. After the IRFU decided that Declan had his time and it was time to get somebody new, I think Joe was the right man to get. From a selfish point of view, I was absolutely delighted.”
Asked if he is looking forward to challenging for international honours with Schmidt, the 27-year-old remarked, “Hopefully he’ll still pick me.”
An indication that Schmidt, despite an outstanding season for Ian Madigan, favours Sexton in big matches came on Friday when the New Zealander named him at 10 for this evening’s Pro12 semi-final against Glasgow Warriors at the RDS. Madigan is on the bench, covering outhalf, centre and fullback.
Gordon D’Arcy, who returns to the Leinster XV to partner Brian O’Driscoll in midfield, declared on Thursday that the Blues squad are determined to send Schmidt off to his new role with more trophy success. Sexton added, “They’re a club that gave me so much and I want to finish on a high with them.”
*TheScore.ie will be liveblogging all the Leinster v Glasgow action from 7pm this evening.