Irish and Leinster rugby was dealt a crucial blow last Friday with the news that prolific number 10 Jonny Sexton would not be renewing his contract with the IRFU.

Despite conflicting reports in the past few days, mainly due to a French embargo on press releases outside the transfer window, Racing Metro have apparently made the St. Mary's man an offer he couldn't refuse.

It was a story we had all seen before, or so we hoped. Back in 2005, Brian O'Driscoll was publicly courted by Biarritz Olympique, going as far as to accept an offer to attend a French Championship game against Stade Francais. Fortunately, the IRFU never called the centre's bluff. O'Driscoll's Gallic flirtation ended with a new (and impressively enhanced) contract that has kept him at the heart of Irish rugby ever since. Right up until the IRFU press conference delivered the dreaded news, Leinster fans hoped that Sexton was merely maintaining a poker face to rival any Texan mastermind.

The pressing issue at hand, in regards to the Sexton saga, is the future for both Irish and Leinster rugby, and the now lacking options at flyhalf. Ronan O'Gara, another French-fancy in his time, looks set to retire before the next World Cup, leaving young, inexperienced players such as Jackson, Keatley and Hanrahan to fill remarkably large boots. While Sexton's exit does not exclude him from international duty, one cannot help but imagine that the fluidity and flair of the Irish backs will inevitably suffer as a result of their fly-half playing on foreign soil.

Things look even more grim down in Donnybrook, as Leinster will turn to patchy Ian Madigan to guide them. While Madigan's flair for open play has come to the fore this season, his decision-making and marshalling of the back line is repeatedly called into question. Fundamentally, he remains an almost last resort for place-kicks, with players such as Nacewa and McFadden expected to step up to the tee. Madigan, it would seem, has a long way to go to emulate Sexton, and he has roughly six months to achieve it.

The present situation now dealt with, thoughts must turn to the future, with many a furrowed brow amongst the top-dogs in the IRFU. Sexton has broken a seemingly sacred precedent, the idea of club loyalty has now been shattered, and French teams may see Irish talent as a fruitful, and hereby untapped, market. Players such as Sean O'Brien, Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip, entering into their prime earning years, could all be tempted abroad for similar money to what Sexton has been offered.

It has been this club loyalty, coupled with huge tax incentives, that has not only allowed Ireland to develop and maintain this crop of players, but utilise them to punch well above their weight in European competitions in recent years. Sean O'Brien was some way short of convincing in his response to questions put to him at an Irish press conference on Tuesday, stating that while he is contracted with the IRFU for 18 months, his future beyond that remains undecided. Sentiments echoed by Rob Kearney in the wake of Sexton's bombshell. Leinster's dream of four Heineken Cups in five years were unmercilessly dashed this month, but Leinster fans, and indeed Irish rugby fans, could be facing a mass exodus of Irish stars. The mould has truly been broken, and Irish rugby may never be the same again.