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Jonathan Sexton has conceded he may not be around for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. 

The current Ireland captain is set to return to action this week against Italy, having been forced to sit out the recent Six Nations defeat to France.

Sexton insists he's "good-to-go" after he failed to come through the return-to-play protocols for the meeting with Les Bleus.

The 35-year old has also coyly revealed that a new Leinster contract is close to being signed.

Reflecting on Ireland's back-to-back defeats which began this Six Nations, Sexton said, "We've created a lot at times - we haven't taken some of them [chances].

"I think at times we're missing opportunities to put the ball into the space. Very early-on in the French game there was a few chances where we needed to shift the ball.

"And then there's other times where we shifted it well into space, and then the space closed up and we should've put it in behind.

"There's lots of examples that we've gone through as a team, and with individuals and small groups and said it wasn't good enough for international standard.

"And despite all those things, we still came within a penalty away of winning the game [v France].

Sexton added, "That's the frustrating thing, but the thing we can control is being better at seeing the space, and then when we do create the opportunities that we make the most of them and we're clinical. It will be the same against Italy.

"The coaches have come in, they've done a fantastic job. It's very different to what it was before, but we will be better for this going forward, of that I'm convinced.

"If we talk about World Cup cycles - I might not be part of the full cycle - but this group will definitely be better for this type of coaching and structures."

Nearly nearly nearly

Sexton's current deal with the IRFU and Leinster expires in June of this year.

When pushed on the closeness of a renewal - believed to be for one year - the out-half jokingly replied, "Nearly, yeah, nearly, nearly, nearly.

"I'm nearly there, yeah, waiting on Leinster to see if Leinster want to keep me or not. They've got a few good young 10's coming through."

Much as he told OTB Sports prior to the Wales game, Sexton says he's determined to keep going for as long as he can, while cognisant that the end of his career may tap him on the shoulder from nowhere.

The real world

Whatever does come next, the former Racing 92 man says he will neither be coaching, nor following others into the TV studio.

"I have a fair idea what I'll be doing," Sexton said, "You never tell anyone your plans, because they can change can't they?

"I've got some things that I'll work towards over - whether it's the next year or two years - I don't know.

"I'll work towards getting into the real world, and starting another life.

"There's some parts of this game that are amazing, you love, and you'd love to be a part of it forever.

"But then there's some parts that you just can't wait to get a million miles away from it.

"I love it at the moment. I'm loving every moment of playing and I just want to focus on this campaign. And if I stay on next year, just focus on that and try and make the most of whatever's left."

For more of these stories, visit otbsports.com

Six Nations fallout, UK sport, Lawro on Tuchel and Super League, the Pele doc, Keeping Teens Active

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Ireland Italy Jonathan Sexton Leinster RWC2023 Rugby World Cup Six Nations

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