It's been a rough few days for Leinster rugby fans. First they were dumped out of the Heineken Cup by rivals Munster, and now today Sunday Independent rugby writer Brendan Fanning is reporting Johnny Sexton will play for Racing Metro for the next two seasons. This is a disaster for Leinster who are losing one of Europe's best tens right as he enters his prime and the IRFU will be under a lot of scrutiny to explain how the negotiations went this way. There were many pros and cons to the move but Racing's massive financial clout won out in the end. Fanning today wrote:
Jonny Sexton will be playing for Racing Metro for the next two seasons. I understand he made his decision this morning having rejected the IRFU’s offer which was in the ballpark of €450-500k, in favour of a €750k offer from Racing.
The move offers him a whole new lifestyle with a very ambitious club, without having to sacrifice his international career. I’ll look at the implications for him and Ireland and Leinster in more depth in the Sunday Independent.
A sad day for Leinster rugby but Irish rugby will survive and the move will give Sexton a chance to test himself against quality opposition every week, something the Rabbo does not offer. And the cash won't hurt either.
IRFU chief executive Phillip Browne has released a statement on Sexton's departure.
While we remained in the fight right up until the last possible moment to keep Johnny in Ireland with a very strong offer, ultimately, following negotiations with the player’s agent, we had no option but to take the decision that it would not be in the best interest of Irish rugby to chase the reported financial incentives being offered.
The IRFU has made a commitment to, and been largely successful in, keeping as many Irish players as possible playing full time in Ireland. However, we have always recognised that some of our players will be targeted by overseas clubs with offers which, quite simply, are not within our orbit.
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has also weighed in.
Naturally, I’m disappointed. I’ve really enjoyed Johnny’s input over the last few years and he has added tremendous value to the Leinster environment both on and off the field. The offer he has received is exceptional, even by French standards, but I know that it was still a tough decision for him.