Both Munster and Leinster, and by extension Irish rugby, were given timely boosts on the eve of pivotal round four return matches in the European Champions Cup by the confirmation that Peter O'Mahony and Tadhg Furlong have each signed three-year central contracts keeping them with their provinces until the end of the 2020-21 seasons.
O’Mahony had been linked with English and French clubs, such as Gloucester, over recent weeks, although it is understood that the latter’s Director of Rugby, former Ulster and Irish outhalf David Humphreys, informed both Joe Schmidt and David Nucifora, that no approaches had been made to O’Mahony and/or his advisors.
Toulon and Lyon were seemingly more serious suitors, and three weeks ago O’Mahony told the Irish Times: “Ideally I would like to (stay). I like it around here, but they’ve got to come to the table as well. I want to play for Munster and Ireland, but it’s got to be fair as well.”
The odds were thus that O’Mahony would stay and evidently, the IRFU have come to the table. It is understood that the 28-year-old’s basic salary has been increased from €410,000 to €430,000, thereby maintaining his place among Ireland’s best paid players, and with match fees and win bonuses that could rise to around €500,000, which is before any additional sponsorships or commercial deals come into play.
It’s particularly positive news for Munster on the eve of their huge game away to Leicester on Sunday, following Simon Zebo’s decision to move on, assuredly to Racing 92, at the end of the season. O’Mahony, who made his debut for Munster seven seasons ago, will make his 99th appearance for his home province at Welford Road. Given Ireland’s player management programme, his decision to stay put should, hopefully, also extend his playing career.
O’Mahony, who won the first of 42 Ireland caps in the 42-10 win over Italy in the 2012 Six Nations, said in a press release: “I am absolutely delighted to commit my future to Munster and Ireland for the next three years. I’m very proud of where I am from and I am really excited about what we are building down in Munster right now.
“Playing for my country is something I dreamed of growing up as a boy, so I cherish each occasion I am lucky enough to take to the field in an Irish jersey. I look forward to building on what has been achieved to date with the rest of the Irish squad and management team.”
The 24-year-old Furlong, who made his Ireland debut in the 2015 World Cup warm-up game against Wales and has now won 19 caps, has also seen his stock and his value rise steadily, not least on the back of starting all three tests for the Lions in New Zealand last summer.
So much so, indeed, that his basic salary is understood to be in excess of O’Mahony’s.
“I am delighted to have signed a contract with the IRFU to continue to play with Leinster,” he said. “I got a number of opportunities over the past few seasons that have helped me to develop as a player and I want to continue to develop and be successful with both Leinster and Ireland.”
Mick Dawson, CEO of Leinster Rugby commented: “This is great news for Leinster and Ireland. Tadhg is a product of the Leinster Youths system and has come through New Ross, into our age grade system into our senior team and now to the highest honours with Ireland and the Lions. His signature is a huge boost as we look to build in the coming seasons. Securing home grown and young talent like Tadhg is a key part of the Leinster way.”