Leinster and the IRFU have confirmed that 21 players have signed contracts ahead of the 2019/20 season, but Rob Kearney isn’t one.
Following on from the announcement earlier today that Cian Healy has extended his IRFU contract until 2021, Leo Cullen has confirmed a further 20 player contracts have been agreed including already the already confirmed Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw.
“It’s a credit to the work that goes on in the schools and in the clubs that we are in a position to confirm 21 new contracts, with all but three coming through the system here. Over the last 20 months or so we have been able to hand debuts to nine academy players and they have deserved those opportunities. And now seven players that started this season in the academy will start next season as senior players,” said Cullen.
He went on to congratulate the younger players that have come through the ranks as well as welcoming back academy graduate Cian Kelleher from Connacht.
“I’m delighted for them and indeed their families and congratulate them on their promotion. We have been very happy with what we have seen from them all in the Guinness PRO14 and in some cases in the Heineken Champions Cup and we hope that they get many more chances in a Leinster jersey in the coming years. It’s also exciting to welcome Cian Kelleher back to Leinster. We have always kept a close eye on his progress at Connacht and it’s great that we can now welcome him back to Leinster and we wish him well in what is already a very competitive position in the team,” he added.
Kelleher returns to Leinster having joined Connacht in 2016, where he scored 14 tries in 54 appearances and is delighted to be back in blue where he will be reunited with younger brother Ronan.
“I’m incredibly excited to get back to my home province this summer and get started in an unbelievable set up in Leinster. It was an opportunity too good to refuse when it came up and I can’t wait to get started and compete in an extremely competitive environment. I hope to add to the incredible success the province has had in the last couple of seasons,” Kelleher said.
All the star names from the past few seasons remain contracted to the club along with youngsters such as Ciaran Frawley, Conor O’Brien, Scott Penny and Hugh O’Sullivan.
However, the most noticeable name missing from the list is that of Ireland international full-back Kearney who is yet to agree renewal terms on his centrally funded IRFU contract. There has been plenty of speculation regarding his future especially since Sean O’Brien, who leaves for London Irish this summer, posted an apparent parting message for Kearney on his Instagram.
For now, all focus will be on Leinster’s Pro 14 final against Glasgow on Saturday but after then there is no doubt that attention will swing back to Kearney’s situation once more.
Former England Hooker Heading to Jersey
One of England’s former stars has confirmed that he will be joining the coaching set up of the Jersey Reds at the end of the current campaign
Former England hooker Rob Webber is heading to the Jersey Reds at the end of the current campaign as the side’s forwards coach.
The current Sale Sharks star will take over from Neil Tunnah, who is leaving after three years at the club and he is delighted to be starting a new chapter in the sport.
“I am really excited about moving to Jersey and joining The Reds’ coaching team. It’s a great opportunity for me and my family as I set out on the next phase of my career. It is an exciting squad that Harvey and the guys are putting together and I look forward to contributing to helping the lads push on. I’d like to thank Harvey and (Reds Chairman) Mark Morgan for giving me the opportunity,” he said on the move.
The 16-cap England international will link-up with former team-mate Harvey Biljon, the club’s director of rugby and Biljon welcomed Webber, admitting he stood out among a list of strong candidates.
‘We’ve spoken to some very high-quality individuals about the role, but Rob stood out and I’ve had a lot of positive endorsements from people I respect. He knows the game and is very articulate and I believe his character will really transmit itself to the others he’ll be working with. There’s a lot of excitement about Rob’s arrival and it will be great to have him working in harness with (Assistant Coach) Ed Robinson – two really promising young English coaches,” he said.
The 33-year-old will bring a vast amount of experience to the team after announcing he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season.
During a career spanning 17 years, he has represented Leeds Tykes, Wasps, Bath and Sale as well as England which has seen him compete and be successful in European and domestic competition as well as playing in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Saracens Facing Fight to Keep Vunipola Brothers
England star duo Mako and Billy Vunipola are looking at their options for next season and considering leaving Saracens according to reports
Saracens could be without both Mako and Billy Vunipola next season as the pair are being chased by a number of Super Rugby franchises according to a report in the NZ Herald.
The report states that the brothers may have already held talks with some of the Super Rugby sides as they consider their options following Saracens relegation to the Championship for a breach of salary cap regulations.
Both are in the final year of their current contract with Sarries and having forged their names at the club they have gone on to become two of England’s key men.
With Mako at 29, and Billy 27, the pair are in their prime and may not like the thought of playing against weaker sides in the English second-tier next season, despite talks of Saracens organising “bigger” matches against teams outside the league, including the possibility of a game with the Springboks to keep their stars at their best.
As well as possibly not being attracted to facing weaker opponents on a weekly basis the brothers will be aware that they will need to put their best foot forward at the highest level next year in order to make it into the British and Irish Lions squad for their tour of South Africa.
They wouldn’t be the first Englishmen to head down south in recent times with fellow England international Joe Marchant on the books at the Blues this year.
It would be a massive coup for the competition if they chose to head to Super Rugby, with fears that interest is lowering lately due to the number of key southern hemisphere players heading elsewhere for more luxurious contracts, but we will have to wait and see what develops over the coming months.
Skelton Set for Summer Move from Saracens
Australian second-row ace Will Skelton looks set for a move away from Saracens this summer, but Rugby Australia won’t be happy with his choice of destination according to reports
Rugby Australia appear set to miss out on bringing Will Skelton back to Australia once again with a move to France looking imminent according to reports.
The giant second-row has been a target for Rugby Australia since before last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, but he decided to remain in England with Saracens ruling him out of contention to feature for the Wallabies due to their overseas laws.
However, they took another shot at getting his signature once Saracens salary cap scandal unfolded, believing it was the perfect opportunity to bring him home.
Talks took place with the 27-year-old but reports in France are now claiming that a deal with French Top 14 side La Rochelle will be confirmed shortly.
It would be another big-money move for the lock, but once more he would be unable to represent his country as he falls well short of the 60-caps needed for an overseas player to be eligible to be called-up.
Failing to tie-down a star name like Skelton again would be a major blow for Rugby Australia and may cause them to consider altering their current rules around the Giteau Law as they are missing out on being able to select some of their best players because of it.