Jamie Heaslip likely to sign new Leinster contract shortly
Negotiations in relation to number eight’s contract believed to be at advanced stage
Jamie Heaslip is expected to follow Devin Toner and sign a new contract with Leinster. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Jamie Heaslip could soon follow his Ireland and Leinster team-mate Devin Toner and sign a new contract.
Toner agreed a new three-year deal that will keep him at the province until the summer of 2020 and negotiations are believed to be at an advanced stage in relation to Heaslip’s contract that expires next summer.
In 2014, the IRFU raised the financial ceiling to fend off interest in Heaslip from the three-time European champions Toulon and in doing so they made the Leinster and Ireland number eight the best-paid player in the country.
His exceptional performances in the recent November Test series, a nomination for the 2016 World Player of the Year – in 2004 he was nominated for Under-21 World Player of the Year – and his remarkable durability and consistency will offer leverage in negotiations that would have begun after the summer tour to South Africa.
It is reasonable to assume that Heaslip, who will be 33 in a fortnight, wanted to get the November Test series out of the way before turning his thoughts to contractual matters. His current deal was reported at the time to be worth €500,000 per annum.
There are two other IRFU centrally contracted players – Munster secondrow Donnacha Ryan (32) and Ulster wing Andrew Trimble (32) – whose deals expire next summer.
Currently, the IRFU has 16 players on deals that its funds entirely with several, including Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton, Seán O’Brien, Cian Healy, Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw, contracted through to November 2019 – a month after the next World Cup finishes.
Among the criteria for getting one of these contracts is based on ability, age, depth in the roster in that particular position and importance to the national team.
Toner (30) was another to enjoy a superb November series, maturing since the retirement of Paul O’Connell, into both a central figure in terms of the lineout but also producing performances of a consistently high standard. Responsibility seems to sit more easily on his shoulders in relation to his role as a leader than it has done at any time in his international career.
He made his Ireland debut in the 20-10 win over Samoa in November 2010 and has subsequently won 42 caps. The Lansdowne man was part of the Six Nations Championship winning sides of 2014 and 2015 and has collected three Heineken Cups, an Amlin Challenge Cup and three Pro12 league titles with Leinster.
Toner said of his decision: “I am delighted to have re-signed with the IRFU and Leinster. There is a huge amount of talent coming through at Leinster and it is a really exciting time to be involved with the province. There is a real opportunity to be successful at both provincial and national level over the coming years and I look forward to playing a part in helping to achieve that success.”
The IRFU’s performance director David Nucifora said: “Devin is a top-class international secondrow and has grown into a leader for both Ireland and Leinster. His performances for Ireland over the past number of seasons have been outstanding and he continues to show growth and an appetite to develop his game.”
The upbeat release was tempered by the news that Ulster and Ireland’s Jared Payne will miss part or all of the Six Nations Championship after it was confirmed he had suffered a kidney injury against Australia last weekend.
The player took a very heavy knock to the ribs in a first-half tackle and didn’t reappear for the second half. It was initially feared that he had fractured or broken a rib but the diagnosis was more serious. He will be out for at least three months, his loss a huge blow to Ireland and Ulster.
Leinster and Ireland tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong had a bruised kidney back in 2013 and was out for six months. Hopefully Payne’s problem is less serious.
The IRFU also confirmed that Trimble, another to be forced off through injury in the first half against the Wallabies, suffered tendon damage in his foot that will keep him sidelined for a couple of weeks, according to the official release.
He is therefore likely to miss the first of Ulster’s back-to-back Champions Cup matches against Clermont Auvergne at the Kingspan Stadium and possibly the return match the following weekend at the Stade Marcel Michelin.
Ulster will be down two Ireland internationals as a result of Trimble and Payne’s absences.
The union also explained that “Rob Kearney was removed from the pitch as a precaution against Australia,” having undergone a head-injury assessment (HIA) following the previous weekend’s game against New Zealand.