Pressure eases on Johnny Sexton as Racing swoop for Mike Phillips
JOHNNY SEXTON's life on the pitch at Racing Metro is about to get a lot easier after the Parisians recruited his Lions half-back partner Mike Phillips yesterday.
The Wales star was dismissed by Bayonne in late October for allegedly turning up drunk for a video analysis session, but denied the charges and launched legal proceedings against the Basque side. Reports in France indicate he is set to drop those charges and the club will remove any reference to "serious misconduct" from his release.
The scrum-half spent the last month with Warren Gatland's Wales squad but yesterday Racing owner Jacky Lorenzetti confirmed the capture of one of the best operators in world rugby – a signing that will reduce the pressure on the Irish international significantly.
Sexton has been the club's go-to man since joining from Leinster last summer and the exertions took their toll on his body last month when he suffered hamstring and hip injuries playing for Ireland.
While Lorenzetti's revolution has seen mass recruitment, there remains significant gaps in the team's armoury, but Phillips' arrival on a two-and-a-half-year deal will spread the load when he becomes available for this weekend's Heineken Cup fixtures.
The 31-year-old had been in negotiations with Racing before his termination anyway and a club statement confirmed that his release had just brought an inevitable move forward.
He joins fellow Wales internationals Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts at the club. The move will also reunite him with another former Lions partner in Ronan O'Gara, who will be his kicking coach. The duo enjoyed a spiky relationship during the latter part of the last decade, but reconciled on the 2009 tour of South Africa.
Racing also began work on their state-of-the-art new stadium in the Parisian suburb of La Defense yesterday, with the project due to be completed in 2016.