Jamie Heaslip signs three-year Leinster contract
Ireland number eight has opted to renew IRFU deal, Ospreys lock Ian Evans suspended for 13 weeks
Jamie Heaslip has signed a new three-year deal with Leinster. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The extended brinkmanship between players and the IRFU over contracts drew to a close yesterday
It brings to an end a will-he-won’t-he saga that has been running since long before Christmas over the immediate futures of Heaslip, flanker Seán O’Brien, Ireland captain Paul O’Connell and wing Keith Earls. All of them have now signed, as has Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray, who did so before the new year. Given the climate and the reported silly money being offered from French Top 14 clubs, it represents a triumph for the IRFU and is in stark contrast to the fortunes of the Welsh Rugby Union, who yesterday lost Cardiff fullback Leigh Halfpenny to the club purported to have been most interested in O’Brien, reigning Heineken Cup champions Toulon. The figure for his signature is being reported at €467,000.
Never before have Irish players come under such financial pressure to leave Ireland, as Johnny Sexton did when he moved to Racing Metro at the end of last season, but the recent packages have now closed the door on those players for a few more years, although, others will be targeted.
The 30-year-old Heaslip, who made his international debut in the 61-17 win over the Pacific Islands in November 2006, will remain in Ireland until he is 33 and approaching the end of his career. He has been fortunate to have survived the years largely injury free, which should add to his longevity.
A central figure in the Ireland and Leinster backrow, Heaslip lost the national captaincy to Paul O’Connell when Joe Schmidt became Ireland coach last year. Ironically, it was Schmidt who had appointed Heaslip captain at Leinster when Leo Cullen was injured.
He has won 60 caps for Ireland and scored eight tries, his last appearance coming in the 22-20 loss to New Zealand in November.
He will be expected to line out for Ireland’s opening game in the Six Nations Championship against Scotland on Sunday week. The Israeli born, Newbridge educated player has twice toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2009 and 2013, playing in five Tests.
“It is great to have signed on for another three years with Leinster. 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,” he said yesterday.
The backrow’s sideboard is also littered with trophies, having won a Grand Slam as well as three Heineken Cups, an Amlin Cup and two Pro12 league titles with Leinster.
“We are delighted that Jamie has committed his future to Leinster and Ireland for the next three years. 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,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne with his Leinster counterpart adding his voice to the general chorus of approval.
“Jamie has played a massive role in Leinster’s success over the past six or seven years, 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,” said Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson.