Johnny Sexton was on OTB AM on Friday. The Leinster and Ireland star shone a light on his time in France and explained what happened out there.
The question of whether rugby players should be given a year on sabbatical was raised on the show and Sexton was quick to quip that he had already had his.
“It was the hardest sabbatical ever though, I played about 45 games or so.”
The circumstances of Sexton leaving weren’t quite what he had wanted as he knew what he was leaving.
“Circumstances were what they were. If I had it back again I’d have hopefully agreed a contract with the IRFU and I would have been happy. I was leaving the best club in Europe at the time, coached by Joe and with Leo as captain.”
“I didn’t want to leave it, I knew what I was leaving and that’s why I was so upset to do it but when you take a stand and say, I’m going to go if this doesn’t happen and it doesn’t happen you can’t just go, OK, I’ll stay anyway.”
While Sexton was disappointed that he had to leave, he admitted that he would tell a young player that was in the same circumstances to follow suit.
“That’s what happened and I haven’t made any secrets of that but this is where I always wanted to be but If those circumstances happened again with someone else I’d say leave.”
Despite the decision not being his first choice, Sexton decided to work hard as he thought he would remain there for the rest of his career. He maintains that despite speculation, the club felt positive about his performance.
“When I got there I threw myself into it… I said I’m here for the rest of my career”
"I know that people say that things didn’t work out but at the end of that first year they offered me a five-year contract to stay, I was obviously doing something right.”
His decision to leave didn’t sit well and led to him taking three months off after announcing his Leinster return
“Obviously, when I decided to leave then, things changed a little bit with the coaches and me and I ended up taking three months off at the start of that year just after announcing that I was going back to Leinster.”
“I took three months off and met a neurologist and things didn’t go sour but they weren’t what they were. I think maybe people thought, 'Aww he was back in Dublin already is he, which wasn’t the case'.”
While Sexton’s career may not have been a highpoint out there, living in France was a good experience for him.
“I loved my time there off the pitch. I learned French, had my first kid there and we had some great memories, made some great friends.”