5 talking points from Jonny Sexton's move from Leinster

A legend will leave Leinster. Here’s our verdict on the Irish international’s big move.

Sexton will leave Leinster at the end of the season.
Sexton will leave Leinster at the end of the season.

1. It’s unfair to begrudge his decision

Jonnny Sexton owes Leinster nothing. Even at the relatively young age of 27, he will surely be remembered as one of the most influential players ever to wear the blue jersey.

He helped inspire the province to three Heineken Cup final victories, and his most memorable moment undoubtedly came in the 2011 decisive match against the Northampton Saints, when his two tries and total of 28 points proved the catalyst for one of the greatest sporting comebacks ever.

Therefore, to severely criticise Sexton’s decision, and call it “disgraceful” or “greedy” as some have done, seems churlish in the extreme.

Sexton is playing the rugby of his life at the moment, and is coming towards the peak of his career. He fully deserves to extract the best financial deal possible for his services, and it’s unfair to begrudge him this reward, particularly as very few people would have acted differently if placed in a similar position.

2. It’s anything but a positive outcome for Irish rugby

Some have suggested that Sexton moving abroad will ultimately be beneficial for Irish rugby in the long term.

The argument being that Sexton will improve his game and learn a great deal more than he would have at Leinster by undertaking the less obvious option and adapting to this unique environment.

Moreover, it means there will be an even greater wealth of options at out-half for Ireland, with Sexton, Ian Madigan, Ian Keatley/Ronan O’Gara and Paddy Jackson all likely to be playing regular rugby at a very high level next year.

However, with Sexton now required to play consistently with non-Irish players, there is a strong likelihood that he won’t enjoy the same kind of chemistry that he normally would with his Leinster colleagues in the Irish set-up.

Surely therefore, the cons outweigh the pros in this instance, as far as Irish rugby is concerned.

3. Leinster look set to suffer immeasurably as a result

A few people have suggested that Leinster won’t be overly affected as a result of Sexton’s departure.

After all, they have the supremely promising Ian Madigan coming through.

Yet for all the promise Madigan offers, he has yet to prove he can make anything like the impact that his predecessor had.

While he has displayed no shortage of skill in a variety of positions this year, the fact remains that his place-kicking and general play remain starkly inferior to Sexton’s.

Consequently, Madigan needs plenty of encouragement to be sure, but it’s imperative that fans and critics don’t expect or insist on Sexton-esque miracles immediately.

4. Could Leinster and the IRFU have done more to dissuade him from leaving?

There have been suggestions that Leinster and the IRFU were somewhat lax in allowing their star man to leave.

Some commentators have even hinted that a sense of complacency pervaded the manner in which they handled the situation.

After all, in recent years, the rumoured impending departures of Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara from their respective provinces turned out to be little more than false alarms.

Indeed, there have been suggestions that the aforementioned duo never genuinely intended to leave, and that they were merely bluffing in order to negotiate better deals.

It’s possible that Leinster and the IRFU suspected something similar was going on with Sexton. If so, the situation is almost a case of ‘the boy who cried wolf’ in reverse. The one time they didn’t believe their man has proven to be immensely costly.

5. Is there any chance of Sexton failing in France?

Moving to a French club is a rare enough circumstance for an Irish rugby player to find himself in.

With Trevor Brennan being a notable exception, there is no real culture of this ever happening until now.

A few may speculate that the Sexton experiment will be a failure, given that other talented athletes – especially ones from Britain and Ireland – have struggled to cope with life abroad in the past.

However, Jonny Sexton is hardly akin to your average sports star.

Judging from both his demeanour in interviews and his conduct on the field of play, it’s obvious that he clearly possesses an exceptional temperament.

Therefore, as much as Leinster fans would like to see him return in a year’s time with his tail between his legs, the chances of it actually happening are minimal.

Au revoir, Jonny: IRFU confirm Sexton is leaving Leinster>

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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