Former Ireland captain Johnny Sexton. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'We lost, but we won' - Sexton marks his retirement from rugby

The 38-year-old said an emotional World Cup in France made it harder to step away.

FORMER IRELAND AND Leinster captain Johnny Sexton has marked his retirement from rugby with an emotional statement saying he believes Andy Farrell’s team were able to inspire the nation in recent years.

Sexton played his final game of professional rugby in Paris two weekends ago as Ireland came up short in their World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand.

While some fans had hoped the 38-year-old might reverse his decision to retire from professional rugby and play on either in Ireland or elsewhere, Sexton has confirmed he will hang up his boots through a statement on Instagram.

Sexton, who finished with 119 caps for Ireland and having become their record points scorer, said retirement was more difficult after the “rollercoaster of emotions” at this World Cup in France.

Ireland enjoyed some incredible occasions in front of huge Irish crowds as they recorded wins over Tonga, South Africa, and Scotland, but the dream ended with defeat to the All Blacks in front of another massive horde of Irish supporters in Paris.

Sexton will now move into a new job as a commercial manager for the Ardagh Group, a Luxembourg-based producer of glass and metal products whose chairman is Irish billionaire Paul Coulson.

There is an expectation within the game that Sexton could be tempted into coaching at some point in the future but for now, he expressed his gratitude to all those who helped him enjoy such a superb playing career.

Sexton retires as one of the greatest Irish players of all time. He won two Grand Slams, two other Six Nations titles, a series in New Zealand, a series in Australia, and a World Rugby player of the year award. He was a Test starter on two Lions tours. With Leinster, he won four European Cups, a Challenge Cup, and six Celtic League/Pro14/URC titles.

“Retirement is never an easy next step for any professional athlete. It is especially hard after the rollercoaster of emotions from the last few weeks in France,” said Sexton in his Instagram post.

johnny-sexton-celebrates-winning-with-his-son-luca Sexton with his son, Luca. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“The sadness and frustration we couldn’t progress further remain, they will for a long time to come but the overarching feeling is the pride I felt playing with such a committed and talented group of players. The best group I have been lucky enough to be a part of…… on and off the pitch. Leaving these players and these coaches is what is making retirement so tough.

“I’ve said it many times before but there’s no feeling like playing in front of a home Irish crowd and that’s what it felt like in Bordeaux, Nantes and in Paris on those three special Saturdays.

“I want to thank my teammates, both for Leinster and Ireland, for everything they have given to me. The last season was one of the most enjoyable of my career and it makes it even more special to do so with people you care about, friends who will stay a part of my life in the future.

“To all the teachers, coaches, support staff and all those who encouraged and supported my career starting out in Bective, St. Mary’s College, club and school, for over 30 years, thank you for everything. 

“To the supporters of Leinster, Racing, the British & Irish Lions and Ireland – with whom I was proud to share my journey – thank you for your faith and unwavering support. 

“To my family, my parents, brothers and sister who nurtured my love of the game and instilled my drive, I couldn’t have made this journey without you. 

“Finally to my wife Laura and our children, your unconditional love helped inspire me through the ups and downs of life and I am incredibly excited about our next chapter together. By far my proudest moments were getting to play with my kids watching on. 

“4 years ago we sat down as a squad and spoke about what we wanted to achieve. Our main motivation and objective was to inspire the nation. I think we achieved that. We lost, but we won.”

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