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Kearney: Sexton move opens 'new ball park'
ESPN Staff
January 28, 2013
Leinster fullback Rob Kearney, Bath v Leinster, Heineken Cup, The Rec, Bath, England, December 11, 2011
Rob Kearney's services would be in-demand if he ever opted for a move abroad © Getty Images
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Ireland fullback Rob Kearney has hinted that more of the country's top stars will follow Jonathan Sexton to France if the fly-half's switch is deemed a success.

Sexton told the Irish Rugby Football Union on Friday that he will not re-sign with the organisation at the end of the season, in the process bringing to an end his successful spell at Leinster. He is reportedly set to join Racing Metro with the Parisian giants said to have tabled a massive offer for his services.

But while Wales and England have previously lost internationals to the spending power of French clubs, it is the first time a high-profile Irish player has headed to the continent. Kearney has discussed the move with his close friend and Leinster team-mate and insists that if it proves a success, others might decide to head for the Top 14.

"That's professional sport, it happens. In Ireland we've probably been lucky over the years in that it's only now that a player has left. It will test the waters obviously," he said. "It could go very badly for him, it's impossible to say. Guys always talk about leaving and threatening to look for new experiences.

"France is one of the new experiences that players will generally pinpoint in looking for a change. Jonny's shown a lot of bravery. If it works out really well for him in that he's enjoying life and playing good rugby while earning more money, people will see that and it will open up a whole new ball park."

Reports since Friday have claimed that Sexton was disappointed with the IRFU's offer as he wanted parity with new Ireland skipper Jamie Heaslip. And Kearney is adamant that the Leinster fly-half wanted to stay with the province and in Ireland.

"Jonny was upset by the whole thing, there's no point lying about it. He will probably tell you that he wanted to stay," Kearney said. "It's unfortunate that whatever way the negotiations went on, he probably wanted to stay and play his rugby in Ireland. But you can't always get what you want.

"Myself and Jonny have been very close over the years and we have been talking about it as time has gone on. He was upset but now he's been able to grasp the whole situation and has started looking forward to it. He's got married to a lovely girl and this is a new start in life for him. He's excited about that and understands that he must jump head first into it."

Ireland name their side to face Wales for the Six Nations opener on Tuesday and Kearney stresses the need to make a triumphant start to the championship. "This is huge for us. We know we've lost our last three against them, including some big games," he said. "Losing the first game takes a lot of kick out of you and suddenly you come under more pressure."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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