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23rd Feb 2021

“I’ll work towards getting into the real world and start another life” – Johnny Sexton

Patrick McCarry

Johnny Sexton

Emm, nearly, yeah, nearly, nearly, nearly.”

Johnny Sexton has a fair idea of what he will be doing after he hangs up his playing boots. He does not want to broadcast his plans, but insists it will not be a pivot into rugby coaching or punditry.

Sexton will turn 36 in July – when he may be on his third British & Irish Lions tour – and he knows the end is in sight. The Ireland captain is still cursing former teammate Isa Nacewa for suggesting to the media that he could stride on until he was in his early 40s.

He would very happily play out the rest of his career without having to hear his name and Tom Brady’s in the same sentence.

During his captain’s briefing, ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations date with Italy, Sexton intimated that he may not be around for the 2023 World Cup [when he would be 38].

“The coaches have come in and have done a fantastic job. It’s very different to what it was before, but we will be better for it… of that I’m convinced. We talk about World Cup cycles. I might not be part of it for the whole cycle, but this team will be better for the coaching and structures.”

Johnny Sexton saying he could be finished by June 2022 – or even 12 months on but without a World Cup to plan for – was never going to be allowed rest, so he faced several more questions about his future.

Asked if he was going to get into coaching or punditry, he remarks, “None of the above! I have a fair idea what I’ll be doing. Yeah, you never tell anyone your plans because they can change, can’t they?”

Sexton says his contract talks with Leinster are ongoing and the biggest stumbling block appears to be how long of an offer he will get. You get the impression if he gets a decent offer until June 2023, he’ll stick about.

The IRFU look set to offer Keith Earls a one-year deal and may have been doing likewise to Sexton. Given that there is €500,000 riding on every place higher you finish in the Six Nations, Sexton could help his own cause by guiding Ireland to as high a finish as possible.

“I’ve got some things that I’ll work towards,” he adds, “whether it’s a year or two years I don’t know

“I’ll work towards getting into the real world and start another life. There are parts of this game that are amazing, that you love and you’d love to be a part of it forever and then there are some parts you can wait to get a million miles away from it. So I love it at the moment. I’m loving every moment of playing. I’m just going to focus on this campaign and if I’m around next year just focus on that and try and make the most of whatever is left.”

Sexton insists it has allows been others, and not him, that have driven the playing past 40 narrative.

“I’ve always been of the same position,” he says, “where I absolutely love what I do. I’m very privileged to do it and I’m still loving it and I’ll keep playing for now. That has never changed.

“I’ve spoken about admiration for athletes that have stayed at the top of their game for a long time but never, I don’t sort.. bcareful what I said of what someone else said, it can get lost a bit but for the moment I’m still hoping that my team-mates and coaches see how motivated I aim to train well every day and then to keep going and whenever that is, I can’t say I’m not playing on [because] no one knows. 24 or 25 years of age, you get an injury and you’re finished.

“At the moment I am contracted for this season and nearly contracted for next season. Hopefully I’ll stay and we’ll see what happens.”

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