FROM THE MOMENT Munster announced that Rob Penney would be leaving the province at the end of the season, Ronan O’Gara’s name was bound to feature in the speculation as to who would succeed the Kiwi.
When the Cork native appeared to rule himself out of the running, Jonny Sexton was amongst the group of people who met his words with relief. O’Gara has become an essential part of the Ireland out-half’s life at Racing Métro and Sexton freely admits that his leaving the club would be a personal blow.
However, any possible departure for his compatriot would not affect Sexton’s circumstances.
“He is still very important to me over there, but I’ve got a contract. If ROG decides he’s coming home to coach Munster, I am not leaving the club because he’s leaving. But it would be a big loss for me personally and for the club.
“Obviously I work very closely with him during the week in terms of prep for the game, and in terms of the kicking side of things. But from a personal point of view, it’s just having him there as a mate. Having Jess, his wife, there for Laura [Sexton's wife] is huge.
It would be a big loss for me but again it’s not like I can just decide to come home. It doesn’t work like that, but it would be a big loss.”
Having developed a close relationship with O’Gara, Sexton is ideally placed to judge how receptive the 128-times capped former Ireland international would be to an offer from the province. Racing’s assistant coach has already stated that he would be flattered by any interest, and Sexton confirms that O’Gara wants to end up back at Munster.
“From my point of view, I hope he is in Paris next year. But I know from speaking to him that he would love to coach Munster at some point; that would be his ideal job. That is why he is becoming a coach. But when he gets the Munster job, or if he gets it, isn’t up to me.”
Sexton and O’Gara have become close friends at Racing Métro. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.
O’Gara recently told RTÉ that his contract with Racing is a two-year deal, but Sexton believes that the second year is optional rather than set in stone. However, it does seem that the former Munster star may be better served by remaining in Paris, learning his trade and garnering valuable experience before returning home.
As for his own long-term future, Sexton is uncertain. The ex-Leinster out-half originally signed a two-year contract with Racing, but there is an option for a third at the end of that initial period. For now, that decision is left unmade.
No one knows. There are a lot of things to happen, either way. Sometimes I find myself talking to Laura about coming home in a year and a half, would we stay the third year, or if the chance arose would we go somewhere else in France?
“This is all the stuff that goes on in your head, then you figure out that none of it matters at the moment. You just try and get back into the next game.”
Fly Off! Aer Lingus ambassador Johnny Sexton kicked off a special offer of ‘up to 20% off’ fares on selected European routes booked from today to Sunday 16th February for travel from 1st May to 30th June. For more information visit www.aerlingus.com.