Thursday 17 October 2019

Johnny Sexton's new deal paves the way for him to tick off one final career goal in 2021

24 June 2017; Jonathan Sexton of the British & Irish Lions following the First Test match between New Zealand All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
24 June 2017; Jonathan Sexton of the British & Irish Lions following the First Test match between New Zealand All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Johnny Sexton's new IRFU contract has opened up a path for the star out-half to tick off the last big remaining goal of his rugby career.

Sexton has won almost everything there is to win in the sport, from multiple European Cups to a Six Nations Grand Slam, and last month scooped the World Rugby Player of the Year award, which is the top individual prize.

As well as his exploits in the green of Ireland and the blue of Leinster, Sexton is undefeated in Lions test series', winning a series against Australia in 2013 and drawing with the All Blacks in 2017.

Today the 33-year-old announced that he has signed a two-season contract extension with the IRFU and Leinster, taking him up to the summer of 2021. While there is no guarantee that Sexton will hang up his boots when this new deal ends - the out-half has talked openly about emulating the longevity of 41-year-old NFL quarterback Tom Brady - a 2021 summer swansong would be a nice finish to an illustrious career.

That is the summer that the Lions will tour South Africa, and were Sexton to be selected he would become one of the few players who has toured all three of the southern hemisphere nations.

In an interview on The Ray D'Arcy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 last May, Sexton revealed that the last two big goals on his list are the 2019 World Cup and the 2021 Lions tour.

Although he will turn 36 during the South African test series, Sexton doesn't think his age would be a barrier to him touring with the Lions for a third time.

"The World Cup and then to try to get on a third Lions tour," Sexton said of his remaining goals.

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"I'd be 35, which as an out-half wouldn't be a crazy age to get picked. Obviously there are a lot of young guys coming through and staying ahead of them would be the big challenge. Trying to keep improving is the big motivation for me. I think there is a lot more in me and hopefully I can keep improving over the next number of years."

Sexton also joked that after being introduced to the career of NFL star Tom Brady by Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster, he now wants to play on until he is 40.

"We have some great influences with the coaches in Ireland and at Leinster with Stuart Lancaster, he has got me obsessed with Tom Brady," Sexton said.

"I didn't know Tom Brady myself about a year ago. I didn't watch any American football but he is the most successful quarterback in the history of the NFL. Stuart Lancaster has got me convinced I'm going to play 'til I'm 40 and my wife is going mad.

"I'm reading up on him and trying to figure out how to prolong my career as long as possible."

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