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Veteran Sexton has given himself a keep-going-or-retire deadline

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Veteran Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton has set himself a deadline to decide whether the upcoming 2021/22 season will be his last in the sport or if he has another final push capable of taking him through to the 2023 World Cup in France at the ripe old age of 38. 

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It was last March, before the final two rounds of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, when Sexton reached an agreement with the IRFU on the one-year deal that will see him line out as per usual in the colours of Ireland and Leinster in the months ahead. 

However, the short-term length of that latest renewal highlighted how Sexton has very much arrived into the twilight stage of his stellar career. His deals with the IRFU have traditionally been for much longer than that but the sands have now shifted and it was bizarre to hear the veteran talking on Wednesday about lining out for Leinster in next week’s pre-season friendly versus Harlequins, the reigning Gallagher Premiership champions, in Dublin.

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The IRFU policy has always been to rest their centrally contracted players in the early weeks of a new season. However, such is the changed situation Sexton now finds himself, especially after he failed to earn selection for the Lions tour, he is preparing to feature in his first pre-season Leinster friendly since their 2009 Donnybrook clash with London Irish twelve years ago.

Whether he plays on or not beyond the end of the 2021/22 season, retirement is not too far away in the distance for the long-serving Ireland talisman and asked by RugbyPass what his plans were for a post-playing career, he replied: “I have spoken to a lot of people, more around the preparation for life after rugby, how did you deal with it because when it means as much – it means a lot to me – and then it is just gone in a day, a lot of guys have struggled with it over the years. I spoke to a lot of guys around that. 

“That is probably the most important thing, how you react to it emotionally and mentally, and then you plan for the future. I’m doing some sort of work experience, opportunities, at the moment. Well, I am doing one and that has been great. It has opened my eyes to the other side, the business world. And then I have thought about whether this will be my last year or not. Post-Six Nations next year is probably when you go, ‘Okay, how much rugby have I managed to get through this year, how have I played, am I still getting picked, do Leinster and Ireland still want me?’ 

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“There are so many things to consider. At that point I will weigh everything up but, like I said, you can be finished on an injury so you can’t plan too far ahead as I found out at the back end of last year. I’m just trying to make the most of it at the moment and enjoy every bit of it.” 

* MACE brand ambassador and Ireland and Leinster star Johnny Sexton was speaking having spent time with the Ardee RFC U14 team, who were selected from the thousands of entries received from all over Ireland in an exclusive MACE competition for the opportunity to win a money-can’t-buy training session with the Ireland captain

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Veteran Sexton has given himself a keep-going-or-retire deadline

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