‘Homebird’ Sexton to decide on club future

Jonathan Sexton has all but made his mind up as to where he will play his club rugby in 12 months’ time, but the Racing Metro out-half stopped short of revealing whether home will be Dublin or Paris.

Back on home soil for a sponsored adidas gig, the former Leinster playmaker had requested that the accompanying interview not include questions as to his contract, but eventually the elephant in the room demanded attention.

And the ‘will-he, won’t he’ charade continued through the day thanks to a Leinster press conference an hour or so later at Tallaght Stadium where the province will meet Ulster in a pre-season friendly on Saturday week.

Few men know Sexton better than Leinster’s assistant coach Richie Murphy, who has advised him as a kicking mentor with club and country and who spoke about how the player is still “a Leinster boy at heart”.

Sexton, for his part, used the word “homebird” to describe both himself and wife Laura, while Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor was understandably amenable to the idea that the Lions 10 might return to the roost next summer.

“It’s probably a good concern to have, if Jonathan was potentially going to come back and play for us,” said O’Connor. “We know he’s off contract. Those conversations have been ongoing. He speaks regularly with a lot of the guys in our environment.”

For every reason to think he would jump at life back in the old sod, there is another to suggest he will stay in France. His pay cheque is one reason but there is far more than that.

Sexton already has a contract which releases him for Ireland camps and games and, with the World Cup down for the start of next season, he will face into a 2015/16 campaign with no global tournament or Lions tour at the far end to consider.

A one-year Racing extension would thus allow him extend his time on the continent with all the attendant advantages that would bring and still allow a possible return to Leinster in time for the season leading up to the Lions trip to New Zealand in 2017.

There is also the fact that Sexton’s professionalism has never been shy of exemplary. Jacky Lorenzetti has invested considerable money and faith in his Irish star, who spoke yesterday about the emotional investment he in turn has made at his new club.

“You feel like part of something going forward. But, yeah, 100% we want to win something this year. We felt at one stage last year finishing in the (Top 14) top six would be a good achievement for us and then we did that.

“But we wanted more and picked up a good quarter-final result against Toulouse and fell a bit short against Toulon in the semi-final. That highlighted the improvements we need to make and we’ve taken them on at the start of this season.”

For all the talk of his workload in France last season, he missed very little rugby. Two injuries cost him time in the Ireland shirt rather than that of his paymasters and the signing of the versatile Johan Goosens will help this time around. The South African, who can play at 10 or 15, kicked a monster drop goal in Racing’s opening win away to Montpellier last weekend and both Sexton and assistant coach Ronan O’Gara are raving about his talent.

“He’s a freak,” said O’Gara, whose presence in Paris, and that of his family, has helped the Sextons settle. “He kicks the ball a mile. Very powerful and hammers it, so there’s contrasting styles. There are a few raw edges as you’d expect of a 22-year-old. It’s hugely exciting if you’ve people like that on a dry night, if you can get Sexton, (Brice) Dulin and Goosen on the pitch you can do things.”

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt met Racing joint-managers Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers again in Paris during the recent Women’s World Cup but no confirmed schedule has been worked out for the player at Racing just yet.

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