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Leinster's Jonny Sexton is lifted by Dave Carney (left), Devin Toner and Brian O'Driscoll (right) as they celebrate during the RaboDirect PRO12 Final at the RDS, Dublin, Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 25, 2013. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire.

Leinster's Jonny Sexton is lifted by Dave Carney (left), Devin Toner and Brian O'Driscoll (right) as they celebrate during the RaboDirect PRO12 Final at the RDS, Dublin, Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 25, 2013. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire.

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Leinster's Jonny Sexton is lifted by Dave Carney (left), Devin Toner and Brian O'Driscoll (right) as they celebrate during the RaboDirect PRO12 Final at the RDS, Dublin, Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 25, 2013. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire.

When it all ended, it was natural that they didn't want it to end. You sensed Leinster may have preferred to stay glued together in the intimacy of that winning dressing-room forever.

When it all ended, it was natural that they didn't want it to end. You sensed Leinster may have preferred to stay glued together in the intimacy of that winning dressing-room forever.

As they huddled on their benches, smiles bounced back from three gleaming trophies, the unmistakable sheen of success.

But, as much as they enjoyed every moment, the future was still there racing to greet them with hurried inevitability.

There's Jonathan Sexton. Here today, gone tomorrow. Even if deep down you know he really doesn't want to leave.

Isa Nacewa too, one of the finest players to grace these shores in the professional era. Three years ago, an old friend called him and suggested he swap the murky grey of Dublin for the azure skies of France. Nacewa turned the tables. "Forget the weather, why don't you come over here? It's much better craic."

That old friend was Joe Schmidt. He, too, said a farewell, of sorts, on Saturday. But, as Shane Jennings reminded us, there were six other players who bade farewell this weekend.

The characters may change but the story remains the same. Those three trophies – Amlin Challenge Cup, Pro12 and B&I Cup – reflect an organisation that now supersedes the strength of any one individual.

PASSIONATE

Nacewa, Sexton and Schmidt may be, to coin that familiar phrase, "irreplaceable". Leinster do not fret about such things.

It is not about replacing. It is about following.

"We demand an awful lot from ourselves," says Brian O'Driscoll. "We have Matt O'Connor coming in and he'll demand a huge amount too.

"I've spoken to him at length. He's passionate about how he wants teams to play and what he wants to achieve here. We're in a good place but we must continue to drive on from here. We cannot remain stagnant. We have to look forward. We have to continue winning."

They will miss those leaving but Leinster cannot wallow.

Even Schmidt tried to separate the emotion from the occasion but, as he sent his men out before the game, he could not prevent a lump in his throat emerging to toy with his composure.

The only tinge of sadness was the sense of valediction seeping through the day.

"It was tough to talk to the group," admits Sexton, already homesick even though he hasn't spent one night in Paris. "They know how I feel about the whole thing. I said I never thought it was going to happen like this. This team has been everything to me for the last seven years, maybe too much at times.

"Some of them are probably glad to see the back of me. They'll be quieter training sessions next year.

"It's tough to talk about because I've got a great adventure ahead of me and I'm going to give it my all for my new team.

"I don't want to insult them, but I also want to let everyone know what Leinster meant to me for the last few years, so it is very hard to put into words."

Leinster haven't always needed words. Nacewa has been a rock of this side, from "sh**ty nights in Glasgow", to quote Jennings, to memorable occasions, like when he busted Seb Chabal in a Heineken Cup clash.

"I only meant for him to stop Chabal, not kill him," smiles Schmidt. "He's a guy who'll do anything you ask, except come off the pitch."

Nacewa once played on with a broken arm. Fergus McFadden spoke admiringly of the Fijian's unfussy humility.

"He's a bit of an enigma, you know? You go to training and he's the first one there and then after training, you're looking for him and he's not there. He's gone.

"And then you just see him for matches. And he's just the best every time. It's strange. He's almost like a Keyser Soze kind of character."

Just like that, a puff of smoke and he is gone.

Sport, so utterly rewarding and yet so demanding, requires that Leinster are already plotting the future.

"Nobody knows about the future," mulls Jennings. "We've done well this year and everybody goes 'oh the future is good just because of that'.

"We have to have young lads being hungry to lift the trophies. You can't have young lads accepting that they're not in the match-day 23. They've got to be pushing. And I've got to be pushing not to let them in."

That sense of place and pride will be the shared legacy of Nacewa and Sexton.

"It's his mentality as well as his ability," says O'Driscoll of his fellow Dubliner. "He demands very, very high standards. Sometimes, he wants people to expect as much as he expects himself, which is not an easy ask. He's going to be a big loss to us.

"Isa, too, bought into us very early on. There's no secret in him being a common denominator in all our success in the last five years.

"He'll be irreplaceable as well. But that's what happens in rugby. Guys come and go. To move on through successful periods, you have to develop new talent, and guys will have the chance to do that. The show goes on."

As it must.

The moment may be so fleeting but the memories can tug for much longer.

"This is a very special place," says Sexton, softly, perhaps unsure whether he will ever return. "I love this place."

Irish Independent