Jonathan Sexton has agreed a new central contract with the IRFU and Leinster to continue to play his rugby with Leinster and Ireland until 2021. He will be 34 next year and will hope to go to a third World Cup in late 2019 in Japan.
Since he came back from France after his two years with Racing 92, he has commanded Leinster and Ireland to great effect. He took the captaincy of Leinster this year from the now retired Isa Nacewa.
He was a vital cog last season when Leinster won the double beating Racing 92 in the Champions Cup Final in Bilbao Spain and then was at out half in Dublin when Leinster won the Pro 14 against Scarlets.
Since his debut in 2009 for Ireland against Fiji, he has gone from strength to strength and has been capped 78 times scoring over 700 Test Points. His partnership with Conor Murray has been a hugely important in the recent success of Ireland under Joe Schmidt.
Without those two key cogs one has to wonder where Ireland would be after the defeat at the 2015 World Cup to Argentina. Since then he and Murray have just gotten better and better and have transferred there good form to the red jersey of the British and Irish Lions in 2017 Series against New Zealand that was shared after a draw in the third Test.
Like the other men that the IRFU have recently tied down to new deals, it is important that Leinster look toward to future and they are doing that well with men like Ciaran Frawley , Ross Byrne and Ross’s younger brother Harry who has been capped at A level by Leinster. They seem to be planning for the post Sexton era which is now on the horizon even though he has committed to new deal until the end of 2021.
When Sexton hasn’t been around Leinster have shared around the out half duties with Joey Carbery and Ross Byrne in the past few years but now that Carbery is settled in Munster, Leinster have promoted Ciaran Frawley to understudy Sexton and Ross Byrne with Harry Byrne biding his time in the AIL and at A level with Leinster.
This type of planning is needed as we will now need to slowly see the next generation beginning to come through in all four provinces to put more pressure on the established players across the four teams.
The IRFU has done very well over the last few months to tie down some many key men to new deals across the provinces but that work will continue and also the work at academy, club, school, and the exile programme will need to continue which has provided players like Kieran Marmion and Kieran Treadwell along with home grown talent like Larmour, Carbery, Stockdale and Tom Farrell.
The system the IRFU adopted all those years ago is working at the moment and will need to continue to evolve to keep up with the demands of the modern game….