Jonathan Sexton says the sadness and frustration of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup exit will linger with him after he issued a statement to mark his retirement from the game.
Despite the World Cup disappointment, Sexton says his overarching feeling is one of pride at the side’s efforts in France.
The outhalf retired after the narrow and heart rending four-point defeat to New Zealand in Paris after a gilded career which included 119 Ireland caps scoring more than 1,000 points, four Six Nations titles and four Champions Cup titles for Leinster.
“Retirement is never an easy next step for any professional athlete. It is especially hard after the rollercoaster of emotions from the last few weeks in France,” he wrote.
“The sadness and frustration we couldn’t progress further remain, they will for a long time to come but the overarching feeling is the pride I felt playing with such a committed and talented group of players.
The best group I have been lucky enough to be a part of, on and off the pitch. Leaving these players and these coaches is what is making retirement so tough.
“I’ve said it many times before but there’s no feeling like playing in front of a home Irish crowd and that’s what it felt like in Bordeaux, Nantes and in Paris on those three special Saturdays.
“I want to thank my team-mates, both for Leinster and Ireland, for everything they have given to me.
The last season was one of the most enjoyable of my career and it makes it even more special to do so with people you care about, friends who will stay a part of my life in the future.
“To all the teachers, coaches, support staff and all those who encouraged and supported my career starting out in Bective, St. Mary’s College, club and school, for over 30 years, thank you for everything.
“To the supporters of Leinster, Racing, the British & Irish Lions and Ireland – with whom I was proud to share my journey – thank you for your faith and unwavering support.
“To my family, my parents, brothers and sister who nurtured my love of the game and instilled my drive, I couldn’t have made this journey without you.
“Finally to my wife Laura and our children, your unconditional love helped inspire me through the ups and downs of life and I am incredibly excited about our next chapter together. By far my proudest moments were getting to play with my kids watching on.
“4 years ago we sat down as a squad and spoke about what we wanted to achieve. Our main motivation and objective was to inspire the nation. I think we achieved that. We lost, but we won.”