Sean O’Brien has rejected lucrative opportunities in France for the second time in his career to commit his long-term future to home province Leinster.
The 28-year-old is understood to have spurned the advances of a host of Top 14 clubs to complete a new three-year deal with Leinster and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).
O’Brien turned down European aristocrats Toulon to stay at Leinster two years ago, and this new deal ensures he remains on home soil until after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The combative flanker’s decision is a timely shot in the arm for Leinster, on the day when much-vaunted centre Ben Te’o agreed to join Worcester Warriors next summer.
“Growing up as a young lad in Tullow it was always my ambition to play for Leinster and Ireland so you never take moments like this for granted,” O’Brien said.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to sign with a club that I feel is going in the right direction under Leo (Cullen) and the rest of the coaching team.
“I think we have a hugely talented group of players and coaches at provincial and national level and it is something that I want to be a part of.”
O’Brien’s renewed loyalty to Leinster and the Irish system is the perfect tonic to increasing battles against the financial might of the English and French clubs.
Leinster have been unable to retain former rugby league star Te’o, the highly-rated centre accepting a sizeable deal with Worcester on Tuesday.
The New Zealand-born former South Sydney Rabbitohs star qualifies for England through his mother, and Leinster admitted he will now attempt to carve out a Test career with Eddie Jones’ national side.
Connacht’s Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw could replace Te’o at Leinster next term, Press Association Sport understands.
But the provinces and the IRFU continue to fight tooth and nail to compete with the financial clout of Europe’s moneyed elite.
The IRFU will hope O’Brien’s new deal will help other out-of-contract stars to commit their future to home provinces, with Simon Zebo and Ian Madigan both rumoured to be eyeing moves abroad.
“Sean is not only a proven world class player but he is a leader within the national set up and at Leinster,” said IRFU performance director David Nucifora.
“The IRFU is delighted that Sean has committed to playing in Ireland until after the next World Cup.”