Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Johnny Sexton shows pitfalls of moving abroad

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Rory Best has rejected a move to France and committed his future to Ulster.
Rory Best has rejected a move to France and committed his future to Ulster.

Rory Best's decision to sign up for a further two years with Ulster on Tuesday rounded off a highly-productive seven days for the IRFU, who also ensured that the immediate futures of Munster duo Connor Murray and Donnacha Ryan remain in Ireland.

Following Johnny Sexton's move to Racing Metro this season, many feared his decision could represent the beginning of a Welsh-style exodus.

However, while uncertainty remains over where Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip and Paul O'Connell will be plying their trade next season, Sexton remains the only high-profile Irish international exile.

While it would be harsh to dub Sexton a cautionary tale already, the struggles endured by Joe Schmidt's starting out-half in the French capital have no doubt played into the IRFU's hands.

Racing Metro's season has been shambolic, with Sexton cutting a more frustrated figure than most.

A pair of defeats to Harlequins over the last fortnight essentially ended their European interest and their domestic performances have been so lacking that their game with Toulon later this month has been switched from the Stade de France to the smaller Colombes.

In contrast, Ulster, Leinster and Munster are all sitting atop their Heineken Cup pools, while even Connacht enjoyed a recent notable victory over Toulouse.

The financial rewards to be gained in the Top 14 are vast but marquee Irish players currently have their international team-mate as a constant reminder of the potential pitfalls involved.

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