LEINSTER AND IRELAND prop, Mike Ross, says he will be sorry to see Jonathan Sexton leave for France this summer, but fully understands his reasons.
The IRFU yesterday announced that the Ireland and Leinster number 10 would not re-sign to play rugby in this country.
Ross joined Leinster in 2009 and has played a big part in their dominance in Europe since. Playing alongside Sexton as Leinster claimed back-to-back Heineken Cup titles.
“On a a personal level, I’m pretty disappointed he’s leaving. I’ll be sorry to see him go.” Ross told TheScore.ie at the launch of EA’s Dead Space 3 in Dublin yesterday.
Sexton, described as a good friend by the prop, is rumoured to have agreed a move to Paris club Racing Metro in a deal said to be worth €750,000 per year.
“I understand his reasons,” Ross added. “The scale of the offer he’s supposed to have got is… I think any one of us would have found it very difficult to refuse and it was going to be very difficult for the IRFU to match that.”
While the money is one aspect, Ross briefly queried how likely it would be that Sexton could add to his medal collection in the Top 14. But was quick to add that experiencing a new league and a new challenge is something many professionals are keen to do in a short career.
“Jonny’s been pretty successful. It’s been a while since Racing won things. It’s certainly a new challenge. I think most of us would have liked to have tried the Top 14 at some stage.
“I’ve tried the Premiership, I’ve tried the Rabo… I don’t think the Super XV would suit me, but certainly the Top 14 does sound quite nice at times.
“There’s history there, the games are fairly attritional and they do love props over there from what I’m led to believe – often they roll fellas off after 40 minutes and roll another set on. Happy days.”
His admiration for the French league is not a come-and-get-me-plea, Ross is content with his lot in Leinster and is on the verge of signing a new two-year contract. However, he admits that his success in blue and rise to become Ireland’s first-choice tight-head would not have been possible without that stint abroad with Harlequins.
“It was the making of me as a rugby player to be perfectly honest. Dean Richards a chance to play as a professional and that’s something I never forget. I’m still in contact with lads from there.”
A former teammate of Sexton, Bernard Jackman, also feels the chance to sample life in France was too good to pass up.
“I think it’s a brilliant opportunity for Johnny,” the Grenoble defence coach told TheScore.ie. “Rugby careers are short and the chance to live in Paris for two years and build something special with Racing is huge.”
Meanwhile, another hooker and predecessor of Jackman, Shane Byrne warned that this move may open the door for Irish stars to leave these shores.
“The big danger now is that it has alerted the French clubs to the fact that Irish players are now fair game. We’ve seen it with Welsh, English and Scottish clubs before but, previous to this, Ireland was a closed market.
He added: “I can’t say it is a big surprise and you also can’t blame Jonny for making the move. From a professional point of view, he can go off to France for three or four years, still play for Ireland and come back to see out his days with Leinster”
- Additional reporting by Pat McCarry
Mike Ross speaking at the launch of Dead Space 3 – cut to the heart of deep space terror alone, or team up with a friend to experience the thrills and the chills together, as EA delivers an award winning action packed horror sequel that will send you and your friends on a hair-raising adventure.
Dead Space 3 is available from Xtravision, Gamestop and Smyths stores nationwide from February 8th.