Rob Kearney and Iain Henderson extend IRFU contracts
Kearney will play for Ireland until 2019 while Henderson has signed new deal until 2021
Ireland’s Rob Kearney and Rory Best both extended their IRFU contracts on Tuesday. Photograph: Inpho
Iain Henderson has become the third player to sign a new IRFU contract on Tuesday, extending his deal with Ulster until 2021 while Rob Kearney will continue to play for Leinster through to November 2019, meaning both will be eligible for Ireland for the 2019 World Cup.
Ireland captain Rory Best also earlier made clear his intentions to play for Ireland in Japan next year.
Kearney made his Ireland debut against Argentina in June 2007 and has won 83 caps for Ireland scoring 13 tries and a conversion. He started every game of the successful 2014 and 2015 championship campaigns as well as every game of the 2009 and 2018 Grand Slam seasons.
Injury denied him the chance to tour in 2016 but he returned in the green shirt in November of that year to play a key role in Ireland’s victory over New Zealand at Soldier Field.
At Leinster he has won three Heineken Cups, an Amlin Challenge Cup and three Pro12/Celtic league titles. He was named ERC Player of the Year in 2012.
The Louth native made his competitive senior debut for Leinster against the Ospreys in September 2005 and has since made 193 appearances for Leinster scoring 223 points. A two time Lions tourist (2009 and 2013) he played in all three Tests on the South Africa tour.
The 31 year-old said he is “looking forward to continuing to achieve with this Ireland squad. There have been some fantastic days for both Ireland and Leinster over the course of my career and there is huge potential for growth in both squads as we look to build and develop and challenge for honours.”
Henderson came into the Ireland team as a first choice lock during the Grand Slam-winning campaign and played four matches.
Henderson started all three Tests in Ireland’s 2016 Summer Tour of South Africa, playing a crucial role in the historic first victory over the Springboks on South African soil, but injury ruled him out of Ireland’s famous victory over New Zealand in Chicago.
He returned to action in the summer for the Lions, making six appearances in New Zealand.
Commenting on the new, Henderson said: “I am delighted and extremely proud to extend my playing career in Ireland for a further three years. The Irish rugby setup is one of the best in world rugby and, since turning professional, I have been able to develop in an environment that has seen both provincial and national teams being part of some fantastic days and indeed some challenging times over the past seasons.
“I am extremely confident that, with both Ulster and Ireland, we will continue to meet those challenges head on. There is currently some exciting talent throughout Ulster and Irish rugby and it is my ambition to continue to push for further honours at both provincial and national levels. As a proud Ulster man, I have always stated my desire to help Ulster secure lasting success and a legacy that mirrors that of our neighbouring provinces. I am extremely thankful to my family, friends and everyone for their support, and the commitment by the IRFU with a three-year contract which will allow me to achieve my goals.”