Luke Fitzgerald signs new two-year deal with Leinster
Leo Cullen also to soldier on for another season with the province
Luke Fitzgerald, who has signed a new two-year contract with Leinster. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho.
It was also confirmed yesterday that captain Leo Cullen has postponed retirement and will play on for the 2013/14 season.
Having just returned from a neck injury, and instantly breaking back into the Ireland squad, Fitzgerald tore his cruciate ligament just 10 minutes after coming on as a replacement for Keith Earls in the final Six Nations game in Rome.
Considering Jonathan Sexton is off to Paris and Isa Nacewa’s imminent retirement, while Andrew Conway and Fionn Carr are joining Munster and Connacht respectively, the idea of allowing the 2009 Lions winger to also depart forced a direct intervention from Joe Schmidt in recent times.
“We are delighted that a player of Luke’s ability has committed his future to the province,” said Schmidt.
“At just 25, his best years are ahead of him and hopefully he’l be back better than ever early next season.”
Fitzgerald added: “I’m delighted to commit my future here. It is hugely frustrating to miss the run-in to the campaign but I’m looking forward to beginning my rehab over the coming weeks and getting back in a blue shirt next season.”
Fitzgerald had a national contract offer withdrawn by the IRFU 12 months ago when he refused to take a 30 per cent pay cut. Following injury, Leinster signed him on a one-year deal. Since his return to the field in January, he featured in just eight matches, winning three caps off the bench against Scotland, France and Italy, before sustaining the latest knee damage.
Joining the significant exodus from Leinster this summer are tighthead Jamie Hagan who has signed for London Irish while Heinke van der Merwe is joining Stade Francais.
That leaves Brian O’Driscoll as the only member of the current squad yet to sort out his future. O’Driscoll has some wriggle room, presumably making his decision after the Lions tour, as IRFU guidelines prohibit the province from replacing him with a foreigner.
Leinster have yet to fill the massive void left by by Nacewa’s premature return to Auckland though a raft of Southern Hemisphere fullbacks and wingers have been mooted, including the Springbok fullback Zane Kirchner and Waratahs speedster Lachie Turner.