Rory Best has signalled his intent to see out his career at home province Ulster by signing a new dual Ireland contract that runs until 2018.
Best will be approaching his 36th birthday by the time his new deal expires, indicating his desire to complete the bulk of his career on home soil.
Ireland chiefs’ decision to hand him another central contract underscores head coach Joe Schmidt’s desire to see the 89-cap front-rower extend his lengthy Test career still further.
Ireland could have opted to overhaul their resources after their fifth World Cup quarter-final defeat in the 2015 tournament, but this new deal for Best is the first tangible suggestion to the contrary.
“Rory contributes so much to Irish rugby both on and off the field,” said the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) performance director David Nucifora.
“He is a model professional who has consistently performed at the top level for both club and country.
“We are delighted to have secured his services for a further two years.”
Best made his senior Ulster debut in 2004 and has racked up 172 provincial appearances, while he is also Ireland’s most-capped hooker.
“It is a great honour to play for Ulster and Ireland and I am privileged to have the opportunity to captain this talented group of Ulster players,” said Best.
Ulster’s new rugby director Les Kiss has worked extensively with Best over the years given his former defence coach role with Ireland.
Kiss believes Best remains integral to Ulster’s ambitions.
“The quality he delivers so consistently reflects his character and his talent,” said Kiss.
“His leadership, tenacity and drive are incredibly important to what we are looking to achieve at Ulster.”