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23rd Oct 2023

Johnny Sexton linked with swift return to Ireland as Mike Catt set to depart

Patrick McCarry

Johnny Sexton

It’s not goodbye, it’s Auf Wiedersehen.

Ireland have already waved goodbye to veteran players Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls, and team manager Mick Kearney. There could be further departures in the coming days and weeks.

While much of the rugby community will be focused on this weekend’s World Cup final, fans in Ireland are getting re-acquainted with the United Rugby Championship and speculating on incomings and outgoings in the Test side.

Andy Farrell is contracted with the IRFU up until August 2025, which may also involve a stint as British & Irish Lions head coach, but could well stay on until the 2027 World Cup, in Australia. A report in The Sunday Times states that Mike Catt could step down as attack coach with Ireland.

The former England international has been with Ireland for almost four years and has come in for a lot of praise, in the past two years, as the team’s attacking side evolved. The report states that Catt may well stay on until after the 2024 Six Nations, giving Farrell and the IRFU time to find the new attack coach and bed them in.

Johnny SextonJohnny Sexton of Ireland applauds fans at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

‘There’s not much HR in professional sport!” – Mike Ross on Johnny Sexton

With news fresh on the possible departure of Mike Catt from the Ireland coach set-up, Johnny Sexton has been suggested as an option to replace him as backs coach.

Looking around the provinces, Mike Prendergast (Munster) and Andrew Goodman (Leinster) would be in the conversation, with Ireland U20 coach Richie Murphy or former Ulster and Ireland back Jared Payne has stepped seamlessly into coaching. Payne joined Scarlets as attack coach during the summer.

Sexton has long been acknowledged as an on-field coach for his teams, Leinster and Ireland, with many former teammates believing it is a path he will eventually go down. In an interview with The Irish Times, earlier this year, Sexton said that while coaching may be in his future, he does not see an immediate bridge to it. He commented:

“I would never say never, you never know what life is going to throw at you. It wouldn’t be my plan straight away, if an offer came in, it wouldn’t be right for me to coach with guys I played with the last number of years.”

During his recent appearance on House of Rugby, a former Leinster and Ireland teammate of Sexton gave his take on Sexton transitioning into life after rugby.

“I don’t think he’ll go straight into coaching. Maybe he’ll give the corporate world a go, first, and see how he gets on in that.

“He may have to watch out for HR [Human Resources] in corporate. There’s not much HR in professional sport. You can’t be telling someone what you really think of them!”

Johnny SextonJohnny Sexton of Ireland with a Katana that was presented to him by the Japanese captain after a game in 2021. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Johnny Sexton also linked with surprise Japan switch

While it has not been widely reported, so must be taken with a pinch of salt, Ruck has claimed Johnny Sexton is being looked at by clubs in Japan’s ‘Top League’.

Their story states that ‘sources in Japan’ believe Sexton could command a fee of £1 million ‘to shelve his retirement plans and play a year in the Japanese top flight’.

Sexton’s next step is set to be taking up a sustainability role with Ardagh Group, a packaging company. After Ireland’s quarter final loss to New Zealand, Johnny Sexton backed Andy Farrell and his Ireland squad to go on to great deeds, in the coming years.

“This group will bounce back,” he said. “They’re an incredible group, led by the man beside me. The best group I have ever been a part of, bar none. These guys they will go on and achieve great things, and I’ll be sitting in the stand, having a pint like you lads.”


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