Leinster today confirmed that the 31-year-old O’Brien will move to Declan Kidney’s side later on this year. O’Brien is currently on a central IRFU contract.
O’Brien turns 32-years-old later this month and is now entering the latter stages of his career. As a result, the union were unwilling to hand him a new long-term deal.
London Irish are believed to have made Leinster an offer of around
€ 400 000 per season which is similar to what he currently gets.
Previously O’Brien has been part of two British and Lions tours. These came in 2013 and 2017 and he started all three Tests against New Zealand during the latter trip.
“Seán has been a key driver of Leinster Rugby’s success over the last ten years and played a pivotal role in our four Heineken Cup-winning seasons.
“He has not only been a world class player on the field, but has also made an incredible impact in growing the game all over the province. He has also been a model professional and a shining example to our young and Academy players.
“As a teammate, Seán was the sort of competitor you always wanted beside you. He is the kind of player who gives you the confidence that anything is possible – nothing fazes him and he always led from the front.
“Everyone at Leinster wishes only the very best for Seánie in his future as he embarks on a new challenge. We will all miss him greatly, but his legacy here will live on as he has influenced so many of us in such a positive way.
“For now, we hope to finish this season strongly and, after his disappointment of missing out on a number of big games last season through injury, we hope Seán can play a major part in Leinster’s push for silverware in two competitions this season.”
For his part O’Brien said, “This is one of the hardest decisions that I have ever had to make. I have played all my rugby in Ireland.
“With Tullow, with Leinster and with Ireland and to move from the place I call home and that I love so much, was not easy.
“That being said, I feel that the time has come to explore other opportunities, to challenge myself at a new environment, in a new city, with a new club and against different players and teams on a weekly basis. London Irish and what they are about is a club that I feel I can grow with and also contribute to and I feel that they have a set up and an ethos that will make me feel at home.
“For me and the time I have left here in Ireland, I want to stay fit and healthy and finish out the season with a strong Six Nations with Ireland and then turn my attention to Leinster and hopefully a seat on the plane to Japan.
“Thanks to my family, friends and my girlfriend Sarah for their unbelievable support in making this decision and of course the fans for all the support I’ve received over the past 13 years. I am looking forward to representing Leinster and Ireland as best as I can over the next nine months.”
London Irish really are making waves in the transfer market!
They’ve already snapped up fellow British Lion Alan Dell and Wallabies Nick Phipps and Curtis Rona. They’ve also secured the services of Ian Keatley until the end of the season and have been heavily linked with Paddy Jackson ahead of their predicted return to the Gallagher Premiership next season.
Cipriani has a new club
Danny Cipriani will join Bath Rugby in May on an extended one-year contract, to include the completion of the 2020/21 season.
The 16-cap England international will join the Blue, Black and White at the beginning of May, following a rigorous recruitment process to strengthen the club’s options at fly-half, with Rhys Priestland departing to Cardiff Blues at the end of this season.
The 33-year-old playmaker is credited for his unique vision as well as his natural creativity and impressive attacking skillset, contributing to a semi-final place for Gloucester in 2018/19 and the Rugby Players’ Association Players’ Player of the Year 2019.
Highly attack minded, Cipriani’s ability to predict the passage of play, create space and control the game is a key component of the fly-half’s unique attributes.
His expertise in game understanding, combined with an exciting commitment to seizing opportunities, has often resulted in match-winning moments across his 18-year career in the sport.
On joining the Blue, Black and White, Cipriani said: “I’ve been really focused over the past three months on improving my running efficiency and kicking, while looking for a club that matches my ambition. After speaking with Stuart and Neal, it was clear that Bath offered that opportunity.
“We talked about what I could bring to the club and what Bath were looking for in a fly-half; someone who could be part of an attacking mindset, who could help unlock that aspect of the game and inject additional pace and vision – complementing the quality in the team.
“The club has a clear ambition and drive that aligns with my own; they want to achieve something special as a team, they want to win. That was a very appealing vision for me.”
Cipriani will join Tian Schoeman as an experienced fly-half who will support Bath’s developing players – in particular Orlando Bailey – to evolve their game.
Cipriani and Schoeman give Hooper experienced options at fly-half, providing a significant opportunity for Bailey to further accelerate his development with their stewardship, following his recent appearances in the first team.
Director of Rugby Stuart Hooper said: “Danny’s abilities are evident; his game understanding and management are exceptional as is his skillset in the backline. He has a real eye for detail around the attacking shape, I’m confident that he will bring an exciting dimension to our game.
“We have made no secret of our recruitment in this key position. Our process, as with all recruitment and contracting decisions, has been thorough and diligent and we are now incredibly excited to be able to announce the recruitment of Danny.
“I have no doubt that Danny will become a valued member of our playing group and become an ambassador to the younger players coming through the pathway just as Rhys has so well over the seasons.”
Tigers welcome back Burns
Leicester Tigers will welcome Freddie Burns back to the club ahead of the 2021/22 season.
The 30-year-old, currently playing for Toyota Jido Shokki in Japan, returns to Leicester for a second stint at the club where he made 75 appearances between 2014-17.
He joined Leicester in 2014 and scored 603 points for Tigers in three seasons, before moving to Bath Rugby ahead of the 2017/18 campaign and then to Japan for the 2020/21 season.
Speaking about the addition of Burns from next season, Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick said: “We are looking forward to welcoming Freddie back to the club from next season.
“He is an experienced Premiership player who has played international rugby and will be a valuable addition to our squad.
“I have been impressed with the way Freddie has spoken about wanting to be a part of what we are building at Tigers and his determination to be a leader in our squad.”
Burns added: “I can’t wait to be back in Leicester and part of the club again.
“I can see the changes in the team and clear identity of the squad with Steve and want to be a part of that.
“I am coming back to compete and want to be playing in the Premiership once again.
“Tigers fans are so passionate and I always had such a good connection with them, they are definitely a reason why I want to come back to the club.”
Gallagher Premiership scrap relegation
- At the end of season 2020/21 there will be no relegation from the Premiership into the Championship, and no relegation from the Championship into National One.
- Provided the winner of the 2020/21 Greene King IPA Championship is eligible for promotion under the current Minimum Standards Criteria, the 2021/22 season to consist of 13 teams in the Gallagher Premiership and 11 in the Greene King IPA Championship.
- Holistic new minimum standards on and off the pitch for promotion to the Gallagher Premiership will be developed between now and the end of May 2021 with involvement and approval from Council which will be designed to promote sustainability in the professional game.
The RFU Council today cast a strong majority vote in favour of no relegation from the Gallagher Premiership or the Greene King IPA Championship for the 2020/21 season.
Council members considered the impact Covid-19 has had on all areas of the game, including the earlier decision to suspend promotion and relegation in the community game and the Gallagher Premiership cancelling a significant number of matches in the 2020/21 season. These cancellations have resulted in a material impact on league positions which could mean relegation based on cancellation not on field merit.
Over the next four months the RFU, Premiership Rugby and Championship representatives will work on recommendations for changes to the season structures for 2021/22 and beyond for both the Premiership and Championship.
It is hoped that proposals will include a different approach to promotion and relegation from the Gallagher Premiership. The aim will be to retain the ambition of clubs in the Greene King IPA Championship and below and to continue to allow a route to promotion to the Gallagher Premiership. New minimum standard criteria, investment in facilities and club funding will be discussed. The domestic calendar will be reviewed, which will also allow additional preparation time for the England senior men’s team ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023. Player welfare will be central to the proposals and the RPA will be consulted on the development of season structures. It is likely that any season structures may also include a further moratorium on promotion and relegation for three or four seasons, after which the structure will be subject to further review. Those proposals would be subject to a vote of the RFU Council before the end of the 2020/21 season.
Speaking about the RFU Council vote, RFU President, HH Jeff Blackett said; “The RFU Council has taken time to understand and discuss all the factors regarding no relegation for this season so that we act in the best interests of all levels of the game. We want to ensure a healthy elite game to support successful winning England teams that generate income to stimulate and preserve the game across all levels. The Council will continue to be closely engaged with the proposals from the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Championship to ensure we maintain the integrity of the future league structures for England Rugby.”