The Ins and Outs of the Johnny Sexton saga

On Friday afternoon, our Twitter timeline was like a morgue.  It was as if there was a death in the family.  Johnny Sexton, the icon of Leinster rugby, would not be staying with his boyhood province, instead signing a lucrative contract with flash Parisian moneybags Racing Metro.  After being knocked out of Europe the previous weekend, it felt like Armageddon for Leinster fans.

Now that we’ve had the weekend to process the bad news, hopefully we can offer a bit more perspective than on Friday, when Palla was tweeting through the tears… here’s how we see it.

1. It’s bad news for Ireland

Some commentators felt the move might actually be positive for Irish rugby; Sexton will hardly disimprove in Paris, and it elevates Madigan to a probable starting role at Leinster.  More Irish fly-halves will be starting big games.  Such an argument looks like a curious emphasis of quantity over quality.  It is great to have as many Irish 10s playing high level rugby as possible, but surely it is most important that by far the best we have is playing in Ireland?  If you don’t put much stock in the IRFU’s ploy of keeping the players under their central watch, then fine, but the players appear to appreciate their game-time being managed (to an extent) and it has hardly done Sexton’s test career any harm that he plays his club rugby with Dorce outside, as well as the other cabal of Leinster internationals.  The net effect is a negative for Irish rugby in general; we’d be better off with Sexton at Leinster. Plus, as we will discuss in more detail below, this could open the doors to other players leaving – which is definitely bad for Ireland.

2. The IRFU has a case to answer

Without being inside the negotiating rooms, we cannot pinpoint the blame on any one individual or body, but at the very least, the IRFU have a lot to answer for on this one.  How did they let the jewel in their crown get away?  Did they undervalue just how good and marketable a player Sexton is?  Going by Thornley and O’Reilly and his godfather Billy Keane, Sexton’s camp were unhappy that contract negotiations started so late and that the IRFU’s initial offer was no higher than Sexton currently earns.  Although he signed a two-year contract last time around, we understand that those negotiations were fraught, with Sexton unhappy at the IRFU’s offer of less than O’Gara (his reserve at the time) was earning.  An overspill of these bad vibes was probably brought into these negotiations.  The IRFU would not have been required to necessarily match the Racing offer; Sexton wanted parity with the top paid players in the country – a fair evluation of his ability, then –  but the IRFU would not meet him there.

The money men at 4 Lansdowne Road may not be completely displeased that they won’t have to pay big bucks to Sexton but still have him for Ireland, but that’s an extraordinally short-sighted view. Coming as it did in the week when Puma pulled the plug on their current kit deal, we should consider this – Sexton’s image rights are no longer controlled by the union, meaning any kit manufacturer will lower their offer commensurate with the fact that one of Ireland’s most marketable assets cannot promote their gear.

3. The central contracting system has its flaws

The central contracting system has served Ireland well, no question.  But its shortcomings were exposed here.  Leinster were the party with the most to lose, but they could do nothing, while the IRFU negotiated with the player.  Joe Schmidt must be seething; he has lost his best player, the cornerstone of his team, because of the slipshod work of others.  Just imagine.  Something is wrong in a system where interests and ability to act are so misaligned. And, to this point…

4. The IRFU’s relationship with the provinces must be better managed

Six months ago we blogged that the future success of Irish rugby depended on the powers that be’s ability to dovetail the provinces’ requirements with those of the national team.  Instead, what we have is a situation where the mission for the year is very much about ensuring that the national team is seen by all as the top dog.  Would this have entered Johnny Sexton’s thinking?  Probably.  There has been radio silence since the PR disaster that was the announcement of new player succession rules, but assuming they’re still going ahead, how confident could Sexton be that Leinster would be able to recruit the top-class second row they need to be competitive at the sharp end next season?  The IRFU’s determination to ensure the national team is not usurped in the fans’ minds as Numero Uno could end up hurting themselves as much as anyone.

5. The door is open for others

We can’t know yet if Sexton’s departure will be the first of many, but certainly it opens the door.  Cian Healy and Rob Kearney have not yet signed up for next season.  Kearney has been on regional airwaves describing his shock at the news.  Sexton’s move will no doubt lead those players to consider just how much a force Leinster can be without their great fly-half.  Compounding this, French clubs may now become encouraged.  The Irish provinces have yielded slim pickings over the years, with Clermont and Toulouse apparently coveting Sexton, but wary of being used as bargaining tools.  Such powerhouses will surely have found their interest piqued by this week’s transfer news. The aforementioned players are of course from Leinster, where there appeared to be genuine shock at how Luke Fitzgerald was cut from the payroll when injured – careers are short and Pandora’s Box is open.

One man we are genuinely concerned about is Sean O’Brien – amazing as it seems, one of our most important players is not currently on a central contract. His current Leinster deal ends next season, so one can expect the union to start discussions in December – if you were a French club, wouldn’t you make discrete contact in advance? O’Brien has many reasons to stay in Leinster, but you can bet that grá for the Union who haven’t made him an offer he can’t refuse is not one of them – they had betterget this one right.

6. Madigan deserves his chance

There’s already speculation that Leinster will scour the southern hemisphere for a fly-half, but this would be a bad move.  The one positive that comes out of this is the solving of the Madigan Riddle, also known as What Do You Do With a Problem Like Madeegan.  While Madigan still has a way to go to get to Sexton’s consummate level, at the very least his impressive performances in blue over the last two years have earned him the right to at least a season as first choice 10.  At his best he’s a thrilling talent with an eye for the tryline, a breaking threat and a sublime pass, and could prove himself to be the second-best 10 in the country if he can improve his decision-making and kicking from hand.  A Shaun Berne-type signing as back-up seems more appropriate, and it’s a pity that Paul Warwick has just been snapped up by Worcester; he would have been ideal. Now that George Ford is taking his promising talents to Oooooooooooooohh Bath, perhaps a move for Beaver is in order?

7. Sexton should see out the season

There’s a worthwhile argument that Leinster’s future must start today with as much invested in Madigan from now, including any Pro12 or Amlin knock-out games.  But Sexton has earned the right not to be treated as a shop-bought commodity and should remain Leinster’s first-choice 10 for the remainder of his contract.  Plus, respect must be paid to the remaining competitions in which Leinster will compete, which means giving themselves the best possible chance of winning them with the best team on the pitch.  Besides, with the Six Nations starting, Madigan will be afforded plenty of Pro12  starts over the coming months in any case.

8. Leinster must be positive and move on

It’s devastating for the fans and certainly a blow to the team to lose so great a player.  But wallowing in disappointment will achieve little.  Leinster’s squad can take comfort by recalling that their recent success was born out of adversity, and their hardness won through difficult times.  They have overcome worse than losing a key player before.  Furthermore, minds should be cast back to the summer of 2009, when a seemingly irreplacable Aussie backrow made his way back down under.  It seemed like the end of the world, but his loss was barely noticed following the emergence of a certain Tullow native with a penchant for smashing holes all over the pitch.

With this in mind, Proper Church’s tweets of Madigan with the meme ‘Relax. I’ve got this’ were a good start.

9. Bon Chance, Johnnny Sexton

Leinster fans in particular will be disappointed, hurt even, by the decision.  Some will call Sexton a mercenary and that he’s moved for the money.  But really, unless any of those people are Johnny Sexton, or Fintan Drury, or Johnny Sexton’s fiance, it’s impossible to know exactly what his motives are for leaving.  Many players have flirted with France before, most notably Brian O’Driscoll.  But none have been in Sexton’s position, where he has won three Heineken Cup medals with his hometown team.  BO’D stayed at Leinster out of a feeling of unfinished business.  Sexton may feel it’s as good a time as any for a fresh challenge.  To him, we say, bon chance.

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  1. Ok I’ve had all weekend to work through the five stages of loss and am firmly in the acceptance stage. A very good summary WOC and just a few thoughts that I need to get off my chest.

    For J10 (as I posted previously) this is unlikely to be just about the money. As you say, many online posters over the weekend have described his actions as mercenary and greedy. I guess the fact that he’s a professional sportsman appears to have passed them by. Moreover, the likelihood is that the lure of the Top14 has been there for some time (remember Stade in 2011). J10 is currently the best outhalf operating in the NH, he has won 3 HEC’s in 4 years and become the likely starter at 10 for the Lions. We all know this but it really is worth restating in the context of his move. Jonny is a wanted man and the chance to play in the most competitive domestic league in rugby is compelling (Matt Williams is on the money today in the IT). If you really think about it, Jonny plays a mere handful of games for Leinster at this stage and it’s clear that he wants to play more rugby (for better or worse) in a weekly competitive environment. Sorry but the truth is that the ever decreasing circle that is the Rabo12 is hardly the place for J10 at this point in his career….if he even gets released to play. Sure the money is great but the chance to be THE leader of a team reclaiming its past glory (if it is Racing) and live in Paris for a couple of years….. He’d be mad not to go!

    Now for the IRFU. I (like WOC) have no inside knowledge of what went on so I can only speculate based on what was written in the papers. However, certain things seem beyond dispute. The IRFU were slow to engage at every point along the way. Whether you buy into the “can’t afford” argument or not (we’ll get to that) there was no excuse for the IRFU not to proactively engage with their top player. As you say they either simply didn’t believe that last Friday would ever come or they actually weren’t too bothered if he went. Their hastily arranged press conference on Friday smacks of not being prepared and perhaps hoping that by going public they were calling Drury’s bluff. It was so hard to figure out what was going on that it was only when I saw Joe’s statement that I knew J10 was going for certain. Hardly the sign of a well-planned negotiation that fell short because of money alone? Which brings us neatly to the question of money. My view is that J10 should have been the highest paid rugby player on the IRFU’s books. From reports in the papers and comments above it seems that view was not shared by the IRFU. For that they owe the rugby paying public an explanation, we are not talking about competing with the salaries on offer in France, we are simply asking why the IRFU would not make Ireland’s standout player the highest paid in the country? Would he have stayed? I don’t know but if he had, my guess is that the IRFU would have recovered their money, he is hardly a bad investment.

    And finally to the biggest loser in this……Leinster. For years we struggled to find an outhalf who could manage the talent that Leinster had in the backline. Felipe was great…….when we played at home. Away from home he was volatile and moved seamlessly from brilliant to ordinary. Think of the away fixtures in last year’s HEC against Montpellier, Bath and Glasgow (the last of which J10 was on one leg for), would we have got out of any those without J10 at outhalf? Go back another year and recall his away performance against Saracens. These are the matches that Leinster perennially lost before the glory years. Of course key players like Leo and Jenno were instrumental in the change of mindset but J10 was the executioner of those teams away from home. That is what Leinster will sorely miss. I won’t make any predictions regarding Madigan, he is a fine player with a different skill set to Jonny but his ability to drag a team over the winning line has yet to be demonstrated. Moreover, the loss of Jonny is a hammer blow in terms of timing. BOD is close to finishing and Leo, Darce and Isa are not far behind. Who knows what the future holds for Rob and Lukey (as pointed out would he even stay if offered a half-decent contract abroad after his last negotiation).

    To finish, the most depressing thing to arise from the weekend is the talk of how Leinster now need to shell out to acquire some quality NIQ players….This is the real failure here. The IRFU should have been unequivocal in their negotiations that they wanted to keep J10 and that’s certainly not clear. They save some money in the short-term but lose out in terms of HEC revenues, gate receipts and salaries to NIQ players. It may not have made any difference to the decision but it’s hard not to think that it could have been handled so much better.

    • Thanks Leinster68, great stuff as always. You raise a good point about the Pro12, and the more competitive nature of the Top14, which triggered something we probably should have included in the post. It’s worth noting that the H-Cup in its current format will not be around in a year’s time, and the unions are not even close to agreeing a new format. We simply have no idea what the Irish provincial rugby landscape will look like in 18 months time. At least in France, where the Top14 has always been king, the club structure has something major to fall back on. This is probably another factor in Johnny’s thinking.

    • The IRFU owe the Irish rugby public a lot of explanations…but we never get them. As a Leinster fan, I am furious. We have lost our best player solely because of the IRFU. They will not let us sign who we want – on the one hand – and deprive us of our best player – on the other. They won’t let us play players when we need to play them. No, this is too much.

      Whether by luck or genius, they managed the transition to the professional game well. However, this debacle should make clear that new thinking and a new system is needed. If the provinces have no say on whether or not to keep their best players, then the central-contracting system is not working…or certainly not working for Leinster. Combining this with the NIQ rule, you have a totally disfunctional model for the future.

      • Scrumdog

         /  January 29, 2013

        The IRFU ought to be restructured and the rugby committee populated with former professional players who have an understanding’ of the professional game in Ireland and of the ‘struggling’ club situation.

  2. Nice post as always guys. Was really surprised Sexton took the offer – just didn’t see it coming and didn’t see it as in his rugby interest – but wish him well: having been among the lucky ones at Cardiff, he gave me a sporting moment to truly cherish.

    Agree with most of your points, although would definitely subscribe to the camp that Madigan should now be given the keys. Not out of spite to Jonny but simply because it would seem to be in Madigan’s best interest to get as much time now playing with the first-team backline. That way, he can hit the ground running next year. We have the perfect end of season to afford him that opportunity. Simply continuing to start him with cobbled-together backlines in the Pro12 will not give him the experience he needs. He needs to start in London, with Darcy and BOD outside him.

    As for signing another outhalf, would agree there too – we should not rush to break the bank and sign – say – Giteau. We need a centre and a second row. We will need a back-up outhalf (and Noel Reid it ain’t). I floated the idea elsewhere but: why not Steenson? He is Irish (so no NIQ problems), would definitely be more than capable of handling Pro12 games and has valuable Heineken Cup experience.

    Check out Andy McGeady’s statto post on Sexton vs Madigan today. Very good.

    • Xyz

       /  January 28, 2013

      Checked out the McGeady post – very interesting comparison.

      At the end of last season I thought Madigan was probably ahead of Keatley and Jackson in the pecking order. Now, however I’d say that (not withstanding a recent dip in form) Jackson would be top of that set. Is this an argument for the benefits of giving your ten all the starts he can stomach? This is my only issue with WoC’s very reasonable point that you don’t bench your best player cos he’s going next season.

      • Yossarian

         /  January 28, 2013

        The obvious other negative of Sexton being gone is the number of Ireland training camps he will miss outside the international window. Your 10 is central to your overall gameplan, if he is missing from various get togethers there is the risk he will be out of sync with the strategy.

  3. Shelflife

     /  January 28, 2013

    At the risk of stirring it up, Welcome to the world of Connacht where this is a regular occurance, we are told to suck it up and that what can we expect when players themselves want to move on to more exciting pastures and more money, and as well as that we dont have anyone payrolling our players through central contracts.

    That said I can understand Leinsters disappoinment, he is a big loss, its my belief that its not all bad for Irish rugby. Theres 400k more in the kitty per year and it means that Madigan will get a chance to step up and hopefully put some pressure on Sexton down the road.

    Its not a bottomless pit that the IRFU have and thats good to see that they wont capitulate in pay deals, thats not to say that they could have done a better job, but if the money talk is to be believed , thats a lot of money for one player.

    Its part of the professional era and all clubs/provinces will have to be aware that the french are on the prowl.

    Its not the end of the world for Leinster, but it sure is a kick in the nuts.

    • Leinster68

       /  January 28, 2013

      I don’t think anyone is saying that players looking for new challenges is not part of professional rugby or that the IRFU have a bottomless pit. The key point is that all available evidence points to the IRFU being complacent in their negotiations. I think that most Leinster fans would accept the pain if they truly felt that the IRFU had given their best shot at this…. My guess is that’s not the feeling.

      As for the 400k argument, surely the point is that the money should go to the top Irish players and not spent on NIQ’s (which ironically would come out of the provinces’ budgets).

      As someone pointed out online at the weekend, French clubs see their players as Assets and the grounds/stadia as Costs. Irish rugby tends to see it the other way around!

    • I would agree with Leinster68 on the €400k argument – what is the money for if not ensuring that the best talent we have plays in the country.

      Sexton is one of the country’s best assets and should be valued accordingly, not thought of as a a cost base. One example: among the IRFU’s biggest pay days are home provincial knock-out matches in Heineken Cup. But without Sexton, Leinster’s ability to generate those is significantly compromised.

  4. jojo

     /  January 28, 2013

    agree with curates egg. This season is a bit of a write off. We cant have another wasted season next year blooding madigan. He needs to get the big games from now on in, and see if he can rise to the challenge or at least give him the experience for big hc games next year. Although, was impressed with noel reid in b and i cup last week. He is still a bit off obviously but easily could be one for the future. (and marsh too).

    I dont think there are too many people out there begrudging sexton, im yet to see any negative comments aimed at him. If we manage to retain our other big players than the IRFU will have got off the hook.

    • @Completebore

       /  January 28, 2013

      If you think nobody is begruding Sexton then don’t look on Twitter. Obviously, it brings out the nutbar in people and you can’t really judge the level of actual fandom, but there’s plenty of harsh language on there. And that’s not including the breathing brain donors rushing to compare Sexton and ROG.

  5. Stevo

     /  January 28, 2013

    Great article, WOC, and I’d go along with pretty much everything you say. Regarding the issue of the succession rules on NIQ players, it seems these rules were developed in an environment where it was assumed that Ireland’s top players would be playing for Irish provinces. If that is no longer the case, and as alluded to in the article it may be less and less the case in future, how can we possibly continue along this path? It’s already clear that in certain vital areas there aren’t enough elite Irish-qualified players to go around the provinces. What seemed like a manageable restraint on the provinces in favour of the national team could soon turn out to be a complete hamstringing of their ambitions.

    • Thanks for the compliment Stevo. You’re quite right of course. Indeed, you could add to that that there’s something slightly disingenuous about the IRFU’s negotiating tactic. They lever off the fact that the players play for provinces who are close to their communities, but at the same time they are now on a mission to ensure the ‘top-dog’ status of the national team at the expense of the provinces. It can only result in players considering their options.

  6. Anonymous

     /  January 28, 2013

    Declan obviously doesnt think much of Madigan. Not even good enough to oust the defunct O’Gara. Don’t think I’ll bother watching 6N

  7. @Completebore

     /  January 28, 2013

    Great post, the most level-headed stuff I’ve seen so far and I second @curates_egg Steenson suggestion – he’s no world-beater, but a calm, experienced back-up Irish outhalf should be on Leinster’s radar right now and there’s not many around.

    The IRFU are in an awkard position, but they don’t help themselves by the lack of transparency and leadership. They need to professionalise further and start leading negotiations rather than reacting to the promptings of professional agents. In the vacuum they create they allow rumour to blossom into fact. There also needs to be some flexibilty in allowing provinces to assist financially in keeping their top players.

    I don’t think there are going to be a flood of players heading off – the number in the sweet-spot of age, profile and security in getting Ireland caps regardless of location (despite what Fintan Drury says I still think test rugby is what every player aspires to) would seem to be quite low. The problem for Leinster is that most of those in danger seem to play for them so the next couple of years could be rocky.

    • And by rocky, you don’t mean Elsom ;p

      You have to still hope that this is a one-off and a wake-up call. The IRFU is about more than a few blazers, so it should be used by all others with a stake in Irish rugby to bash some heads together and try and make sure we can maintain the successful rugby model we have developed.

  8. Amiga500

     /  January 28, 2013

    My thoughts:

    1. Maybe. Given that Dorce is likely to retire within the next few years and the Irish 12 will probably be one of Luke Marshall/ JJ Hanrahan/ Dave McSherry, then the backline may not be playing week-in, week-out anyway.

    2. You’d like to think the IRFU have done a basic cost:benefit analysis and determined the monetary value of paying more than € X a year is bad business and they didn’t exceed that target. It is unfair and disrespectful of any of us to assume they are stupid enough not to at least do that.

    3. Agree, the system undoubtedly has it flaws. But compared to the Welsh/Scottish alternative? Should the IRFU give the provinces each a money pot to spend as they see fit? Should they mandate that at least X % of that pot is to be spent on home talent?

    4. Agree. Not much more I can add to that really. But, we shouldn’t be too harsh either… a look at the Welsh debacle would show how much worse things could be.

    5. Yes… and no. Some players will be more likely to head than others, just due to personal circumstance – doesn’t make them better or worse.

    For instance, I have little fear of SOB leaving. The man is of the land and won’t stray far from it. Other farmers on here will know exactly what I mean.

    6. Agreed.

    7. Only if Sexton is the form player. If Madigan is on fire, leave him in.

    8. The IRFU might be more amenable to Leinster bringing in a top quality NIQ to partner McCarthy now. To be brutal about it… with Madigan in the wings, if they get all the money the IRFU would have spent on Sexton, they may be a better team for it.

    9. A key player in Leinsters most successful period ever? Best of luck to him and he should be going with the thanks of everyone associated with Leinster. Anyone giving off about his choice needs to take a long hard look at themselves… and if they don’t realise their stupidity, maybe they should f**k off and support Bohs, Rovers or Shelbourne… or Man U.

    • Just on Point 2 – we understand that Johnny Sexton asked for no more than the top paid players are earning, but the IRFU wouldn’t meet him there. So the €x in this case is an amount they are willing to pay some players, but apparently don’t believe Sexton worthy of it.

      • Xyz

         /  January 28, 2013

        @WoC playing devil’s advocate here as not sure I believe it but maybe they are regretting paying up so much for other players. Just because you over paid last year or the year before (vs what you are earning) doesn’t mean you should over pay again?

      • Amiga500

         /  January 28, 2013

        With the economic situation being what it is, it is very possible that the IRFU are faced with a smaller money pool (or more diluted) than what they had to work with for the other contracts you allude to.

        I’m sure they are well aware that Sexton is probably the most pivotal player in the Irish 15 at the moment and has been for some time.

    • toro toro

       /  January 28, 2013

      “2. You’d like to think the IRFU have done a basic cost:benefit analysis and determined the monetary value of paying more than € X a year is bad business and they didn’t exceed that target. It is unfair and disrespectful of any of us to assume they are stupid enough not to at least do that.”

      We can’t criticise the substance of decisions, because doing so violates some standard of charity to the decider?

      Sorry, this is mad. Where does this reasoning end? “You’d like to think that Deccie has weighed up the pros and cons and come to the considered decision that ROG should continue as the reserve ten. It is unfair and disrespectful to second guess that?”

  9. Shelflife

     /  January 28, 2013

    I agree that the 400k should be spent on The Irish players coming through and even the top players as well if need be.
    The problem is as Leinster68 and completebore have said is that maybe the blazers didnt do a good enough job in the negotations and the problem lies in the fact that there are still too many blazers in the driving seat.
    As well as that as completebore said the fact that they wont give out all the facts leads to loads of theories as to what exactly is going on.
    The blazers were brought up in the amateur era and the thought of paying a player €500k + would prob give some of them heart attacks.

    I too dont think that there will be a flood of players heading off, International game time is the be all and end all of rugby union and that will be a huge factor in most players minds.

  10. Seiko

     /  January 28, 2013

    This is a great opportunity for Sexton. Apart from all the cash, this is a chance for him to be the driving force and king pin in an underachieving team like Racing. Up to now he really hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserved from Leinster – BOD, Rocky, Nacewa, Kearney have all claimed that spotlight. He could become Racing’s Johnny Wilkinson. Best of luck to him.

    The IRFU probably couldn’t open negotiations until after the AIs as they would need to know how much they could budget for player wages bearing in mind they lost a couple of million the previous year.

    By the way, was Luke Fitzgerald really badly treated by the IRFU? My understanding was that all players had to take a cut and (injured) Luke was not prepared to take it, so the IRFU withdrew the offer. Hope those who complain about Luke’s treatment weren’t complaining about Denis Leamy getting a central contract (and he got injured playing for Ireland)! Whatever about Kearney leaving (for a new experience), I can’t see Luke Fitz leaving just yet – he has a lot of unfinished business with Leinster and Ireland. SOB won’t leave the farm in Tullow.

    The same thing that is happening in Munster will happen in Leinster. A group of young players will come through who will want to build a legacy to match the one that has gone before.

    • We made the point at the time that whoever gave Leamy a new contract clearly didn’t cup him and ask him to cough – he never picked up a ball in anger between then and his retirement.

      This is nothing on Leamy now, but you clearly can’t run a transparent contractual process like this.

      • Seiko

         /  January 29, 2013

        Not sure what you are saying there – but I believe the issue with Leamy was that he picked up his last injury at the world cup – it would have been a terrible message to the rest of the players if he was left injured and without a contract and fairly rough on Munster to have to pick up the pieces and get him fit again. Stephen Ferris must be very concerned about his next contract.

  11. Cant uderstand that no one mentios Wigglesworth and his supposed role in the IRFU.
    The sooner he goes the better.only because I am an Ulster Supporter do I hesitate in nomiating the stand out replacement because I would like to see him stay at Ulster.

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  January 28, 2013

      Very valid point. I think the Humph would be a great person for the role. Not keeping the brother was the clearest sign that he knows better than anyone that it’s a business and sentiment in this day and age is for fools.

      My concern would be for the clubs. Not that Wigglesworth has been of any benefit to them over the years (lip service seems to be as far as he goes). The bridge from amateur to pro is a delicate one and needs a decent restructure and support.

  12. TJ Hooker

     /  January 28, 2013

    Can’t understand the general hysteria prompted by Sexton’s decision. Well, perhaps I can from a Leinster perspective, but not from an Ireland one. I’m excited by the rare prospect of one of our players testing himself regularly outside the half-baked Rabo bubble. I don’t even think it’s that big a concern regarding player welfare – with the size of the Racing squad Sexton shouldn’t be flogged too hard, and who knows if they’ll even be competing in Europe. The rumoured 750k offer was something the IRFU could never match, or come close to; should the move not work out he can return richer in a couple of years, and still in his prime; lastly, I don’t envisage an Irish player drain similar to Wales – it’s only in the event of exceptional offers like this one that a top Irish player would be tempted to move.

    • Our point was the IRFU did not need to match it, merely show Sexton some love. I’d be very careful about assuming this won’t be the first of many – it need not be, but if the system doesn’t change I wouldn’t rule out many departures.

      This is Ireland’s best player leaving the country at the peak of his powers – that’s a hammer blow no matter how you put it.

      • Seiko

         /  January 28, 2013

        Ireland’s rugby future isn’t very bright if Sexton is meant to be our best player.

        For someone who doesn’t feel loved by the IRFU, he reportedly seems to be doing a lot to facilitate them having access to him any time they want.

        I’d imagine Schmidt leaving at the end of next seas was a bigger factor.

      • TJ Hooker

         /  January 28, 2013

        Perhaps the IRFU need to modify their negotiation policy in light of this development – I suppose they could ringfence some marquee players and pull out all the stops to keep them in Ireland. But there is a limit on what they can stretch to.
        You say: “This is Ireland’s best player leaving the country at the peak of his powers – that’s a hammer blow no matter how you put it.” A hammer blow to Leinster maybe (remains to be seen), not necessarily to Ireland.

        • Not to the Ireland team, but to Irish rugby. I’m afraid that’s the case. If O’Gara had left Munster in 06, or O’Driscoll Leinster in 04, it would have been as big of a blow to Irish rugby.

          One option is the “franchise player” system they use in the States for NFL – but this would have to be something the provinces controlled or it wouldn’t work. Of course, the players would need to be paid more in general in order to enable a workable franchising system…

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  January 28, 2013

        Hmm. Still with the dissenters boys – JS leaving is good for him, Racing Metro and Ian Madigan – the real losers are Leinster who, as you say, have lost a rare jewel in a tackling kicking passing ten. The Ireland team won’t suffer from the loss of JS or Madigan getting more game time (and having seen him I wish he was in Ulster atm – a true footballer.) Irish rugby is different, but perhaps WoC you’ve hit the nub – this glaring mismanagement might be about the primacy of the national side to the detriment of the provinces, which would seem to be cart before the horse. (It’s also about the money. Oh the money, don’t we love it, sure isn’t that stadium shinier that a new penny farthing. Bok.)

  13. Its certainly been a week to forget if you’re a Leinster fan: Sexton off to France, Conway to Munster and the total hosing Bent took last Friday night in Galway further fueling the serious doubts over his abilities at tight head. I would share WOC concerns over a possible exodus of other key talent in the wage of J10’s departure. I’ve had Munster fans whom I know laugh at this and call JS ‘mercenary’ and comparing him to the noble ROG who never left Munster (implication also being that no true Munster man ever would leave), for one this is comparing apples to oranges as ROG to my knowledge was never offered what Sexton has been from a French Club. Second is that this really is missing the bigger picture here in so far the perception in France or even England may now be that Irish players might be more easily tempted abroad than hitherto-fore and that cannot be anything other than bad news for all the provinces. I think point 4 above is very important and I wonder whether the attitude in the IRFU to the provinces has hardened on the heel of the ‘why can’t we translate provincial success into national success’ question and perhaps a fear as alluded to above that perhaps provincial rugby is becoming more important to fans and players. Whatever the motives, the IRFU have handled this whole thing badly from start to finish, I just hope that they use this experience wisely and adjust their strategy/tactics etc with players negotiations in the future; otherwise one fears it’ll be an exodus of Welsh proportions

  14. It has been well documented that certain players have expressed an interest in playing abroad and experiencing a different culture and lifestyle. You’d be mad not to have those thoughts. Heaslip and BOD have mentioned it in the past. This is pure guesswork but I’d wager that Sexton isn’t in that camp. He seems to be a happy homebird type to me and I reckon the IRFU negotiations panned out as such that they left him little choice but to make the move. Time will tell and we will learn what the IRFU were up to. Initial comments being reported by Rob Kearney suggest that Sexton was “upset” to have to leave, meaning that the IRFU weren’t playing fairly by him.

  15. Yossarian

     /  January 28, 2013

    I imagine part of Johnnys motivation in leaving was the way he was made jump through hoops for the past 6 months just to try get in line with the other leading players.If you were to go through this annually or bi-annually (as the IRFU contracts often are) you would spend have your working life stressing about your employment status. Couple that with an offer as tempting as the one on the table from Racing it is easy see why he is gone. The IRFU are shown to be completely inept in their handling of the entire situation. If we are going to be offering lower money we need to be offering a greater security of employment.Take Healy who is going to be our losehead for years to come, or Kearney a lions fullback in waiting what odds they are only offered 2 year deals max?in 18 months they will have to go through all this again.No way to treat your leading players. We should be more like the premiership where they don’t let their leading players into the last 6 months of their contract without their future being sorted.

  16. I’m not sure that it is fair to call the IRFU ‘completely inept’, however I also feel that there is a real danger that they may have assumed, having managed the initial transition to professional rugby brilliantly, that they had it sussed. I have major fears regarding the strength of the Super 14 and the possibility that it will sweep up a significant swath of the best players in Europe (including Ireland’s). The IRFU need to have a strategy for an altered marketplace, what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.

    i’d also wonder whether there is a factor here regarding the impending hit to the IRFU finances caused by much lower renewals revenues from the large tranche of 10 years tickets due at the end of this 6 Nations. Word is that they anticipate difficulty selling at €9k which, while still highly expensive, is the same figure they were sold at ten years ago. This is very likely to be far lower than was anticipated in the budget for the construction of the new stadium.

    • Yossarian

       /  January 28, 2013

      fair enough they won’t ever match the cash in France but why do they wait to November to begin negotiations?We always had the possible scenario of being out bid so we need other incentives (player welfare being the big one). Making players jump through hoops isn’t a good strategy. BOD getting photographed in Biaritz, ROG stirring up a miami dolphins story. We can blame the agents but maybe the players need to do this to get their market value. By all accounts he would have been happy being paid in line with the other top irish stars and that figure wasn’t forthcoming.

  17. zdm

     /  January 28, 2013

    If it’s all about the money, Sexton needs to get himself a new agent – pro sportsmen make much more money out of advertising and endorsement than playing their sport – Rory McIlroy is about to earn more in a year than most African countries to sell metal sticks and t-shirts and Tommy Bowe is sellinghawking a sandwich he has never tasted despite having acting ability that is only rivalled in its appaling-ness by his singing voice.

    Sexton may have been offered 400k a year to play rugby in France vs maybe 100k in Ireland but he could have made more selling radiators or bags of oranges to a captive audience. That market is only available in Ireland, where people who only watch rugby on the RTE news highlights reel still recognise him – I’d wager that while rugby fans around the world will know who he is, the average Parissien housewife has no idea.

    The second bit about this all that mildly baffles me is how moving to France will improve his rugby – the French see fly halves as a burden to be tolerated, just someone to funnel the ball from the creative 9 along the line to the wingers. Given that they like their 9’s to control the game, and particularly their backs, I can’t see how Sexton will adapt to that rugby culture or if he does, how this will improve his game.

  18. Leinsterlion

     /  January 29, 2013

    I could be wrong, but I think the Aviva stadium building and ticketing debacle is finally coming home to roost for the myopic blazers in the IRFU. The reason the purse string are so tight is the ridiculous decision to downgrade from an 80’000 seater stadium to a 50,000 one, and trying to make up the shortfall with higher ticket prices in the midst of a recession.
    The IRFU in their infinite wisdom added a paltry amount of seats and essentially botoxed the stadium, for the princely sum of half a billion. When the recession hit their overpriced ticketing/corporate box scheme failed and the Lansdowne facelift has been shown up for the white elephant it is.
    If you look across the continent using football as guide, all the top clubs are using the stadium as a revenue generator by adding more seats. The clubs who dont have big grounds or cant add more seats are looking to move. The only clubs in small stadia who are successful are the playthings of oligarchs. A large stadia is essential to the profitability of all sports organisations.
    Once again, the thick Irish are behind the curve, as aside from Italy, Ireland have the smallest stadium in the 6nations….While Twikenham, Millenium, Stade France and Murrayfield are maximising revenues for their respective owners, the paltry face-lifted Lansdowne is half a billion back hole in the balance sheets of the IRFU. vIts an utter disaster of a stadium from a cost and seating pov.
    The reason Sexton doesn’t have a new contract is down to the arrogance and short sightedness of the IRFU in giving their stadium a pretty facelift, as opposed to building a modern 21st century revenue generator as we see on the continent in football.

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