Heaslip commits to Ireland


Heaslip commits to Ireland

Leinster's Jamie Heaslip is the latest player to reject a big-money offer from France and commit to Ireland by signing a three-year contract.

Number eight Heaslip is the final frontline Ireland star to agree new terms after deals for captain Paul O'Connell and Keith Earls were announced earlier this week.

Heaslip joins Leinster team-mate Sean O'Brien in rejecting the advances of Heineken Cup champions Toulon, and he also turned down an approach from Montpellier.

Ulster hooker Rory Best also declined offers from France earlier this season and Cardiff Blues number eight Robin Copeland has signed a deal to join Munster next term.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton will remain Ireland's only frontline star plying his trade abroad next season.

Heaslip's decision to commit his future to Leinster ends a period of speculation and uncertainty for the IRFU, who had feared a number of stars joining Sexton in France.

Sexton has played significantly more club rugby with Racing Metro than he would in Ireland's provincial set-up, with head coach Joe Schmidt admitting Ireland had "lost control" of the player during the autumn Test series.

Ireland's careful player management has been central to their ability to retain this latest nucleus of talent then, especially given Wales' continued talent drain to the unrivalled salaries on offer in France's Top 14.

Penning a deal to run until 2017 is a clear indication the 30-year-old will now complete his career at his home province.

Relieved he can now concentrate on the upcoming RBS 6 Nations, he said: "Leinster is where I wanted to continue playing and I am happy that the process is now at an end.

"I am looking forward to playing my role in driving success for both Leinster and Ireland."

British Lion Heaslip made his Leinster debut in 2005 and has since amassed 176 appearances, scoring 34 tries.

The 60-cap loose-forward first featured for Ireland against the Pacific Islanders in November 2006, and has claimed a Grand Slam and three Heineken Cup titles in his career.

"We are delighted that Jamie has committed his future to Leinster and Ireland for the next three years," said IRFU chief executive Philip Brown.

"He has been one of most consistent performers and top number eights in world rugby for many years and has played a starring role for Leinster, Ireland and the Lions."

Plotting further silverware raids at club rugby, Leinster CEO Mick Dawson said Heaslip will be central to the province's future.

"Jamie has played a massive role in Leinster's success over the past six or seven years," said Dawson.

"He is a key leader within the squad and he will play an integral part in the club's plans to compete for silverware in the years to come."

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