Johnny Sexton has revealed that he did not intend to announce that he will be retiring after next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The Ireland and Leinster captain will hang up his boots after the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, at which point in time he will be 38 years old.
Not many would have predicted that Sexton would continue for so long, but he is still one of the best out-halves in the world, even if he can’t play as regularly as his younger peers.
Sexton signed a new contract with Leinster and Ireland in March although he revealed to Brian O’Driscoll on BT Sport that he hadn’t intended on revealing that it would be his last contract.
Johnny Sexton on his accidental retirement announcement.
“The body feels great, I feel as hungry as ever. It was an accident, to be honest,” Sexton said.
“We made the decision to announce the contract extension. So I thought it would all be, ‘Oh, it’s great.’ Then one of the first questions was, ‘Does that mean you’re going to retire after the World Cup?’
“It caught me out to be honest. I always had this dream after the last World Cup to get to another one but it’s just unfinished business. We’ve never done it at a World Cup.
“Faz [Andy Farrell] rang me and said, ‘Will you captain the team? We’ll take it season by season.’ I didn’t expect that so that spurred me on to try to repay that faith.”
“The desire to get to five amongst the group is huge.”
Leinster captain Johnny Sexton joins @BrianODriscoll on the golf course 🏌️♂️
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) May 28, 2022
The World Cup remains the primary focus.
There is still plenty of rugby to be played before the World Cup kicks off next September, although it is clear that success in the tournament remains Sexton’s primary goal.
Sexton has won league titles and Heineken Champions Cups with his province, and Six Nations titles with his country, but Ireland have been knocked out at the quarter-final stage in each of the three World Cups he has competed in.
Most Irish fans would probably be pleased with a semi-final appearance, although Sexton will undoubtedly be aiming for more.