For those who don’t know Ireland It can be difficult to understand the feeling that the green tone provokes in its inhabitants. Their island is known as ‘the emerald’ and that feeling of being a precious stone makes them tremendously proud of their roots. Both the natives and the descendants of the Irish feel their colors as their own and when the celebration of Saint Patrick is added to it, the nationalist ecstasy is already absolute.
For sports-loving locals, there are two specialties in which they crave victory over the others: golf and rugby. Also with the green of the grass as the protagonist, any self-respecting young man wants to stand out in them. And those who achieve it acquire the charisma of a national star.
For the professional’s nephew William Sexton it was easy to go for the game of the oval ball. Little Johnny was clear from the beginning that his future was going to be aimed at crashing, passing and transforming, because in all these facets he stood out. His first and only home team was Leinster (since 2006) and he only allowed himself the luxury of playing in France for three seasons (2013-2015) because Racing 92’s money made him one of the richest ‘rugbiers’ in the world. (750,000 euros per year).
His return to Dublin was that of the prodigal son and his compatriots saw to it that money was no longer a problem for him. With a chip close to a million euros, this campaign is turning out to be a dream. After thirteen years in the national team, he retires from the Six Nations at the age of 37 as the longest-serving player in the tournament, the one who has scored the most points (566) and the one with the most caps of his own (113). But the best thing for him is that part of these achievements has been achieved against his eternal rival, England. Against XV de la Rosa he made his debut as a starter in the tournament in 2010 and achieved his first points in green; then he obtained his first ‘Grand Slam’ in 2018 and also yesterday, the day he retired, the protagonists were the British. Of course, yesterday’s victory was the most special of all. It gave him his fourth title after those of 2014, 2015 and 2018, and the possibility of retiring in praise of the crowd before his own. “Of course, I had dreamed many times what that moment would be like, but at the same time I wanted to keep myself in the present so as not to create too many expectations,” he declared excitedly. He limped goodbye, but his tears were not of pain but of joy.
An ending without surprises
The rush that brought Ireland number one in the world ranking in 2023 had its continuation with the Six Nations. They were carrying out all their games without fuss, just enough to reach the final day with everything in their favor. They depended on themselves to win the cup with the greatest merit one could dream of: finish undefeated with the ‘Grand Slam’. Hence, neither Scotland’s victory over Italy (26-14) nor France’s victory over Scotland (41-28) were going to be able to tarnish the patron saint’s weekend, provided they fulfilled their obligation.
And boy did they. As the Aviva Stadium was packed, they started a bit hesitant (0-6), but Sexton took the opportunity to ask for sticks and close the gap after 18 minutes (3-6). At that time, the Dubliner broke the record for the tournament’s top scorer (560 points). Then Seehan rehearsed and the conversion of Johnny appeased the nerves ahead of the break (10-6). The prize, however, would be expected. England played with one less, but they did not let go and until Hensaw did not score and Sexton completed in the middle of the period (17-9) they did not breathe a sigh of relief. Then came Seehan’s other mark and the conversion of the captain so that the stadium was a party before the last goals of the season (29-16).
The future for Sexton is clear. Immediately, enjoy this moment of ecstasy. Then, push his team as far as possible in the European Cup and, at the end of September, say goodbye to his team at the World Cup in France. There are still many green petals to be removed.