Au revoir Johnny. Sexton's move to France now a Racing certainty
Leinster and Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton is poised to join Racing Metro in the summer after putting pen to paper on a lucrative deal with the French giants this morning, according to reports.
Sunday Independent journalist Brendan Fanning confirmed the news this morning on his personal website after weeks of speculation linking the talented number 10 with a move to the Top 14.
According to Fanning, Sexton agreed a two year-deal worth a whopping €750,000 per season with the Parisien outfit, having rejected an offer from the IRFU thought to be worth in the region of €450,000 - €500,000 per year. The deal will make Sexton the highest-paid Irish rugby player of all-time.
The IRFU confirmed that Sexton will not be renewing his contract in a statement which read: "We are very disappointed, as we know the Irish rugby public will be, that Johnny Sexton will not be playing his rugby full time in Ireland from next season. Johnny is a major talent and his full time presence in Ireland will be missed, particularly by Leinster.
"We wish Johnny continued success with his career and he will receive all the support he needs over the next number of weeks in what we know was a very difficult decision for him.
"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.
"While Johnny has made the decision to move on to a new club, the IRFU is fully committed, together with the provinces, to maintaining its programme of nurturing and retaining Irish rugby talent. We feel that the benefits of the careful and considered management of those players will allow us to maintain this policy."
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt added: "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."
Arguably the best out-half in Europe at the moment and currently the favourite to wear the number 10 jersey on the Lions tour of Australia in the summer, Sexton will be a huge loss to Leinster, while it remains to be seen how the move will affect his international career as the games come thick and fast in France and the amount of game time he gets will not be managed by the IRFU as it is here at the moment.
Ian Madigan would seem to be the natural successor to Sexton for the reigning Heineken Cup champions, but already there have been suggestions on Twitter as to how Leinster might cope with his loss.
Best of luck with that lads.