Dublin (AFP) – Ireland rugby captain Johnny Sexton signed on Tuesday a one-year contract extension up to the end of the 2021/22 campaign with the Irish Rugby Football Union, saying his “appetite for success” remains as great as ever.
The 35-year-old fly-half remains the side’s key player, evident in his pulling the strings as the Irish secured their first win in this year’s Six Nations with a 48-10 thrashing of Italy on Saturday.
Sexton — the 2018 World Player of the Year — had sparked debate over his long-term future last week when he suggested he might not last till the 2023 World Cup when he will be 38.
However, he rowed back on it later saying it had been a “throw away comment” and that unlike other players his contracts are reviewed every year due to his age.
Sexton assumed the captaincy after the retirement of hooker Rory Best following the 2019 World Cup and if anything that has re-energised his desire for the game.
“I am really enjoying my rugby and I want to keep learning and adding value to both the Ireland and Leinster environments,” Sexton said in an IRFU statement on Tuesday.
“I am enjoying the challenge of captaincy and the added responsibility that it brings.
“My appetite for success is the same as it ever was and the ambitions of both the Ireland and Leinster squads match my own.”
Contract talks with the players had been put on hold last year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Sexton is the latest of the senior players to agree a new contract, following that of second row forward Iain Henderson last week.
IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora said Sexton was still the example for other players to follow.
“Johnny continues to show he has the quality and appetite to compete at the highest levels,” he said in the IRFU statement.
“He is playing an important leadership role with the Ireland squad and his insight and experience continues to be of great value to the group.”
The major question mark over Sexton’s long-term future is his habit of picking up niggling injuries and also due to his fearlessness taking knocks to the head.
A failure to pass the return to play protocols after taking just such a knock saw him miss the 15-13 defeat by France.
As a result he will have to wait for his landmark 100th cap, as if he remains match fit and plays their final two games of the Six Nations against Scotland and England he will have 99 to his credit.
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