The former captain will not take part in the 2024 Championship

The number ten jersey is iconic within Irish rugby, and it had become synonymous with one man. But why is Johnny Sexton not playing in the Six Nations?

The 2023 Grand Slam-winning captain became the first-choice No 10 in the 2012 Six Nations after a three-year tussle with fellow fly-half Ronan O’Gara, which began when Sexton made his debut against Fiji in November 2009.

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Yet despite rugby fans getting so used to seeing Sexton appear in the Six Nations wearing the famous green No 10 jersey, he will not appear this season. But why?

Ireland’s record points scorer (1,108) announced he would retire following the completion of Ireland’s 2023 World Cup campaign in March 2022. Sexton hoped his Irish career would finish with him becoming the first Irish captain to guide Ireland past the quarter-finals and potentially lift the Web Ellis Trophy, but Andy Farrell’s side suffered the same fate as so many of their predecessors: a quarter-final defeat, this time to New Zealand.

Read more: Tearful Sexton reflects on end of career

Sexton’s Leinster career also ended in underwhelming fashion. The injured fly-half watched on as his side lost the Champions Cup final to La Rochelle at the Aviva  – the French side coached by his once bitter rival O’Gara.

However, his last Six Nations hurrah in 2023 was memorable as the Irish secured only their third ever Grand Slam and the first one to finish in Dublin, with Sexton key to the success.

The Irish had long talked about who would replace Sexton at fly-half in the national squad, as nobody expected him to make it to the age of 38.

But all players must eventually call time on their career, and the four-time Champions Cup winner believed a curtain call at the end of the 2023 World Cup was the perfect time to do so, allowing a fresh face to steer the ship for the next cycle.

The new incumbent is Jack Crowley, and the Munster man has very much impressed in the first two Six Nations games since Sexton’s retirement: wins away in France and at home to Italy. The 24-year-old has been tipped to be the man to lead Ireland into the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

But with Ireland also having Harry and Ross Byrne as well as Sam Prendergast waiting in the wings, the position is not totally assured, but one thing is for certain: rugby fans have seen the last of Sexton.

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