Tuesday 23 January 2018

Sexton to stay put in Paris

No 10 to remain with Racing despite rumours of Blues return

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JONNY SEXTON will see out his contract at Racing Metro and will not return to Ireland after just one season in Paris, despite Brian O'Driscoll tentatively endorsing the idea yesterday.

The Irish Independent understands that the IRFU have made no approach to their fly-half about buying out his contract and bringing him back prematurely, while indications are that the player himself wants to see out the remainder of the two-year deal he signed with the Top 14 club last year and is happy with life in Paris, even if the club's season has not gone to plan thus far.

Speculation has mounted in recent days about the union bringing the influential 28-year-old back to Leinster just 12 months after he signed a lucrative deal to move to Racing and his former captain was asked about a prospective move at Carton House yesterday.

However, such a move appears to be a non-runner.

Sexton – who, it is hoped, will return to training today despite injuring his thumb against England – has spoken of his struggles in settling in with Racing, whose poor Heineken Cup performances have heaped pressure on coaches Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers.

The number of games the former St Mary's man has played has, meanwhile, been a major concern to Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

"Listen, I don't want to talk out of turn. Johnny is contracted to Racing and I think it would be disrespectful to them to say we're looking at taking him away from them," O'Driscoll said when asked about the idea yesterday.

"I think everyone is in agreement that we didn't want to see him go and if a situation arose where he did come back and some agreement was made, I don't see that being a negative.

"I know he'd be welcomed into the fold from a provincial point of view and I'm sure the management would like to be able to control his game-time a little bit more than they currently can."

Of more immediate concern is the state of Sexton's hand and Ireland manager Mick Kearney said that he is hopeful that fresh scans will allow the pivot return to training today and clear him to play on Saturday against Italy.

The management remain hopeful Peter O'Mahony will be able to train this morning too, while Andrew Trimble, O'Driscoll and Martin Moore have all shaken off knocks and are available.


While O'Driscoll backed Paddy Jackson to cover for Sexton if needed, the outside-centre disagreed with the notion that the first-choice out-half should be rested.

"Any time that Johnny Sexton is available for selection, I like playing in the team with him because he's bloody good," he said. "If he's available, you would hope to play your strongest team and he's definitely a part of that."

O'Driscoll, who admitted he carried a calf injury into the England game which had previously been described as an illness by the Irish management, wants to see improvements made against Italy this week.

But, despite the need to build Ireland's points difference ahead of the final game in Paris on Saturday week, he would not be drawn into talk about building a big score ahead of the game.

"I don't think you can go into Italy thinking about a score," he said. "You've got to go in thinking about the process of trying to be clinical in finishing your opportunities and if that means that the Italian team you face has a brilliant day and you end up winning by a point, you've got to do enough to get across the line."

Irish Independent

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