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'Johnny won’t play forever, as much as we would like him to'

The Ireland and Leinster captain is close to agreeing a new contract.

Leo Cullen, Felipe Contepomi and Leinster captain Johnny Sexton.
Leo Cullen, Felipe Contepomi and Leinster captain Johnny Sexton.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LIFE WITHOUT JOHNNY Sexton is coming for both Leinster and Ireland, and perhaps sooner than expected.

Unprompted, the out-half yesterday hinted that while a new one-year contract extension should be finalised soon, it may be one of the last he signs.

Equally surprising was Sexton’s suggestion that his life in rugby probably won’t extend to a career in either coaching or punditry. 

Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi says he isn’t sure about Sexton’s future plans, but hopes the player makes the right decision for himself.

“We haven’t talked about it,” Contepomi said.

“He still has a lot (of time) to think about it and sometimes in those decisions, because it happened to me, you can go back and forth, and maybe he changes his mind. But I think the best thing is to let him experience those talks to himself, and then respect his decision and support him.

“First of all I think he’s lucky that he’s making the decision (on his own terms). When you can make the decision on your retirement, a lot more thought has gone into it than when it comes (suddenly).

“It’s whatever really feels good for himself.

“Look, rugby has been a huge part of his life and maybe if he wants to get away from it for a while, it’s good for him.

“But one thing is definite, in a certain way he’ll be attached to rugby because it’s very hard to just walk away from it when it’s been a huge part of your life – even maybe as a parent, with his son playing rugby, or just as a spectator, who knows?

“So I think we need to respect whatever his decision is. From my point of view, I always say respect that decision and try to support him and his decision, rather than judge.”

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Leinster currently look well equipped to handle Sexton’s departure, whenever that does arrive. 

Between Byrne brothers Ross and Harry, Ciarán Frawley and academy 10 David Hawkshaw, there is no shortage of out-half talent at the province. Sexton’s potential exit would open the door for some of those younger 10s to step up.

“Johnny won’t play forever, as much as we would like him to,” Contepomi continued.

“He is a great player and probably one of the best Irish players ever. We need to keep on trucking and Leinster has to keep developing players and I think we are lucky enough we have some good young No 10s coming behind.

“Probably he’s been a lot of that inspiration for no 10s in this region to get to a level that we have at the moment. 

“Obviously we plan and see the bigger picture and that’s part of our work with the academy, who is coming through and so on, scouting and everything, but we also have to manage the day-to-day work and it’s about giving some time to those players and preparing all the players for Leinster to succeed.”

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