(Adds detail, IRFU comment)
By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton will rejoin Leinster from French side Racing Metro for the 2015/16 season, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said in a statement on Thursday.
Sexton won three European Cups in four seasons with the Irish province before joining the Paris-based club on a lucrative deal at the start of last season. He has signed a contract with the IRFU until November 2019, the union said.
“I grew up playing my rugby in Leinster and always wanting to pull on the blue jersey so I am delighted to be able to return to play my club rugby in Ireland,” Sexton said in a statement.
Sexton, 29, played in all five games of Ireland’s 2014 Six Nations Championship-winning campaign and started all three tests for the British and Irish Lions in their 2013 series victory over Australia.
When Sexton left for France last year, the IRFU said it was not in the best interests of Irish rugby to chase the reported financial incentives the flyhalf was offered.
However Ireland coach Joe Schmidt bemoaned the rigours of the French league that last season saw Sexton play far more club games than his national team mates who were afforded time off from their provinces around international duty.
Unlike in New Zealand where players who move abroad become ineligible to represent the national team, Sexton remained available to play for Ireland, although the demanding French season means he misses some national team training camps.
He will link up again with Ireland team mates Sean O‘Brien and Jamie Heaslip who rejected moves to France last season to remain at Leinster.
The Irish side retained their PRO12 league title without Sexton last season but were easily beaten by champions Toulon in the European Cup quarter-final.
Sexton, who has 45 caps for Ireland and is the country’s third-highest points scorer of all time, is currently sidelined after breaking his jaw playing for Racing Metro last week and could be out of action for several months.
“Irish rugby will benefit hugely from having a player of Jonathan’s calibre playing full-time in Ireland,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Mitch Phillips and Ken Ferris)