Jonathan Sexton set for move
Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton is poised to join Racing Metro after the Irish Rugby Football Union confirmed he would leave Leinster at the end of the season.
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Sexton has signed a contract described by Leinster coach Joe Schmidt as "exceptional, even by French standards". The deal is thought to be worth £640,000 per year over two seasons.
The 27-year-old has won 34 caps and is clear favourite to be the Lions' Test fly-half during their summer tour to Australia.
"We are very disappointed - as we know the Irish rugby public will be - that Johnny will not be playing his rugby full-time in Ireland from next season," IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said.
"Johnny is a major talent and his full-time presence in Ireland will be missed, particularly by Leinster."
Sexton is the first regular Ireland international to have accepted the riches on offer in France with the IRFU having previously proved successful at retaining their top players.
Brian O'Driscoll was persistently been linked with French clubs while Jamie Heaslip, the national side's new captain, last year rejected several lucrative offers from Top 14 clubs to stay at Leinster.
Sexton's departure places Ireland in the same position as Wales, and to a lesser extent England, who have lost internationals to the vast spending power that exists overseas.
It means Ireland will have less control over the jewel in their crown and the IRFU admitted the sums involved forced them to withdraw from negotiations, stressing the money would be better spent elsewhere.
"We remained in the fight right up until the last possible moment to keep Johnny in Ireland with a very strong offer," Browne said.
"But ultimately, following negotiations with the player's agent, we had no option but to take the decision that it wouldn't be in the best interest of Irish rugby to chase the reported financial incentives being offered.
"The IRFU has made a commitment to, and been largely successful in, keeping as many Irish players as possible playing full time in Ireland.
"However, we have always recognised that some of our players will be targeted by overseas clubs with offers which, quite simply, are not within our orbit."
Sexton has been a central figure in all three of Leinster's Heineken Cup titles and supplied the half-time speech that inspired their stunning comeback in the 2011 final against Northampton.
He will join a Racing squad that currently includes the likes of Argentina backs Juan Martin Hernandez and Juan Imhoff, France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and ex-England fly-half Olly Barkley.
Wales and Lions centre Jamie Roberts announced during the autumn that he would be swapping Cardiff Blues for Racing next season.
"Naturally I'm disappointed. I've really enjoyed Johnny's input over the last few years and he has added tremendous value to the Leinster environment both on and off the field," Schmidt said.
"The offer he has received is exceptional, even by French standards, but I know that it was still a tough decision for him."