JONNY SEXTON HAS dismissed reports linking him with a move back to Leinster and Ireland in the summer. The Irish out-half addressed recent reports about him leaving Racing Métro after only a season to return home well in advance of the 2015 World Cup.
Speaking on 2FM’s Game On, Sexton said, “That’s not going to happen.” The 28-year-old told host Damien O’Meara he had always strived to tell both sides of the story following his move to France, from Leinster, but feels the media has only picked up on comments about his initial struggles to settle in Paris. “Me and my wife are settled. We have a baby due in July and it’ll be born in Paris, please God.”
Sexton flew into Dublin on Sunday afternoon with the rest of his Irish teammates but returned to Paris today and will have a medical with his club later this week. The out-half will follow return to play protocols after shipping a concussive blow against France on Saturday.
Racing are in the hunt for a Heineken Cup spot and Sexton may yet be drafted into their squad for an away date with Grenoble on 22 March. While the majority of Ireland’s triumphant Six Nations squad will sit out this weekend’s RaboDirect Pro12 action, Sexton, if fit, could feature in the Top 14. For precedent, look no further than Toulouse coach Guy Novés’ decision to recall six French internationals — including Yoann Huget and Louis Picamoles — for Saturday’s encounter with Stade Francais.
The fact that Sexton may be called upon so soon after a gruelling seven week period will be disconcerting for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. The New Zealander has already complained about the heavy workload his starting 10 has been dealt with this season. As recently as two weeks ago, Schmidt highlighted a communication breakdown between Racing and the IRFU when the French side ruled Sexton out for ’10 days to six weeks’ with an injured thumb.
Midi Olympique, the newspaper that first reported Sexton’s move from Leinster to Racing, was the latest publication to speculate on a possible return to Ireland for the 28-year-old. ”According to our information,” Midol stated today, “the possibility of a Sexton return to Ireland in June has increased significantly in the last week.”
The notion was first broached by Peter O’Reilly in The Sunday Times in early March but the IRFU’s stance has been not to comment on Sexton’s as he is not yet halfway through a two-year contract with Racing.
Source: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Brian O’Driscoll was asked about a possible Sexton return on 3 March and responded, “I don’t want to talk out of turn where Jonny is contracted to Racing, and I think it would be disrespectful to them to say there we’re looking at taking him away from them.” However, O’Driscoll added, “I think everyone is in agreement that we didn’t want to see him go, and if a situation arose where he did come back, and some agreement was made, well I don’t see that possibly being a negative.”
Midol’s article declared Racing are willing to open the door for a Sexton departure, providing they are adequately compensated. Sexton is the Top 14′s highest paid player, on a basic wage of approximately €560,000 with bonuses and add-ons.
Although it now seems unlikely, the IRFU would have to buy Sexton out of his contract and match his salary terms. Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt would be eager to get his star out-half back in Ireland as he plots a Six Nations defence and making waves at the 2015 World Cup. That possibility now appears to be distant.
*You can listen to the Sexton/Game On interview here >>