Monday 20 November 2017

Sexton won't be back anytime soon

Jonathan Sexton will soon hold talks about his long-term future at Racing Metro
Jonathan Sexton will soon hold talks about his long-term future at Racing Metro
David Kelly

David Kelly

Jonathan Sexton will leave Racing Metro. But, sadly for Leinster fans, it will not be this summer but prior to the 2015 World Cup in England.

Much twittering speculation and bar-stool gossip have centred upon the romantic prospect of the home bird sundering his ties with Racing – in effect, ripping up a professional contract in order to be smothered by the faithful bosom of his homeland.

In rugby football – unlike its narcissistic 'association' cousin – binning contracts is utterly repugnant to the admittedly dwindling morals that have survived nigh on 20 years since the Paris Accord swept amateurism from the record books.

Were a suitor to offer a higher bid – and despite the fairytale flag-raising of the spring, when ideas were planted in certain heads that the IRFU were willing to repatriate Sexton – the Irish Union will not be that soldier.

Toulon, perhaps, but not the IRFU. Not this summer anyhow.


As with those previous spring smatterings of overly optimistic media plants, uncertainty intervenes when confusion begins to cloud the facts.

Sexton has agreed to delay contract talks with Racing Metro; this is true. However, they are talks that pertain to his option of taking up a third season with the revitalised Paris side. They do not entertain any notion of skipping the second year of a contract which, unless you took annual leave from the sports pages last season, dominated much of the off-field debate within Irish rugby in 2013.

That still did not prevent the first offerings from the bookmakers landing in our inbox afternoon, breathlessly declaring that Sexton was 5/1 for a 'sensational' return to Leinster in time for next season.

Connacht, at 100/1, seems a more likely possibility. Secreted within the press releases was the more prosaic confirmation that betting on him to remain in Paris next year is a 2/7 odds; we reckon that's a steal. Sexton's own comments yesterday may have seemed to fuel the fire a tad but, we would argue, not when you listen to them carefully.

"They (Racing Metro) are keen to sort of get talking now and I just said let's wait until the end of the season," said Sexton this week. "It's a family decision now. We've got a baby on the way, me and Laura and that will very much be lets see how that goes with having a kid here and not having grandparents and aunties and uncles to look after it... we just have to see how that goes for the next few months. Then we'll see what the options are.

"From a professional point of view things are still much better here. There's still a long way to go and there's still some frustration.

"Some days it's great and you love it, the lifestyle and things but there are massive things you miss from home. There's a lot of rugby to be played.

"The Argentina tour as well... when everything settles down in the summer I'll start to think about it. It's tough not to think about it though. It does occupy a lot of your time thinking about whether you'll go home or whether you'll stay. But I'll wait to see what the options are."

Within all these comments are nothing we didn't know before. If it were needed, it is a polite invitation to the same IRFU blazers who were complacent in allowing him to slip from Ireland's grasp in the first place.

Sexton clearly doesn't want to be in a position where the IRFU have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the negotiating table; if there are polite and discreet encounters engineered this summer, there is no reason why the path cannot be smoothed for a return by 2015.

But then, this was the prognosis all along so clearly nothing has changed. Sexton is enjoying the challenge and any perceived pining for home is simply that. Racing, after beginning the season like a crowd of over-35s trying to play sevens after one too many at the summer barbecue, have developed a coherence as the Top 14 season progressed under their intelligent coaches.

Sexton's integration has also increased exponentially and, although unlikely given their status as an away side in 'le barrage' against Toulouse, they are at least in contention for silverware.

Much has been made of the bust-up between him and Juandre Kruger in training this week; it was as if this was the result of a prospective first-time father releasing the pent-up frustrations of an angry young man in exile. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, this training spat – around a dozen of similar vintage are being currently conducted at training grounds as you read this – hinted at Sexton's feral desire to make the most of his sabbatical from home.

As argued before, he should not tour Argentina – he says he wants to tour but what player would say the opposite?

Then, when he does broach his future later this summer, perhaps with a new Sexton filling his house with wondrous cries, he can do so as a man at ease with himself and his world.

Racing may be unlikely to retain someone who will be disappearing for both a Six Nations and a World Cup. But who knows? Few expected him to leave so why be so surprised if he stayed longer?

He will return to Ireland a better player. Just not as soon as some people seem to think.

Irish Independent

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