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Saturday 19 April 2014

Sean O’Brien signs on the dotted line…who is next for the IRFU?

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Sean O'Brien has committed his future to the IRFU, but what of the other out of contract players?
Sean O'Brien has committed his future to the IRFU, but what of the other out of contract players?

Irish rugby supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday when Sean O’Brien signed a new deal with the IRFU, but who is likely to follow suit?

It has been a busy period for the IRFU with a number of contract negotiations concluded, but some key players yet to commit their futures in this country.

O'Brien joins Donnacha Ryan, Conor Murray, Ian Madigan and Rory Best in staying in their respective provinces ahead of next year’s World Cup, but who else will sign on the dotted line?

Jamie Heaslip

Now that the Tullow Tank has ended speculation over his future, for the next two years at least, Heaslip now appears the most likely to venture overseas.

As Ronan O’Gara alluded to, it would make more sense for the 30 year-old to move to France than O’Brien, and after missing out on one Irish back-row Toulon have reportedly upped their offer to prise the Naas man away.

Leinster remain confident of brokering a deal for the 30-year-old Ireland vice-captain, but after another meeting with French representatives this week and a big offer on the table, Heaslip may struggle to turn down the riches on offer.

Paul O’Connell

Given the level of speculation surrounding the Leinster duo, O’Connell’s contract which runs out at the end of the season has gone largely under the radar.

Murmurings of regret that he never played abroad fuelled rumours of ending his career with a money-spinning move to the Top 14, but the 34 year-old has been in sparkling form for Munster and an extension to his current deal looks increasingly likely.

Dave Kearney

Kearney Junior has really made his mark this season and not only rubber-stamped his place provincially, but was one of Ireland’s best performers during the Autumn Series.

The 24 year-old has admitted that his contract talks are still “up in the air” but is looking to resolve the situation soon.

Having cemented his place under Matt O'Connor, Kearney would be keen to sign an extension if the IRFU offer is satisfactory.

Keith Earls

Try scorer from last weekend, the 26 year-old has been rejuvenated under Rob Penney and has looked more threatening than he has for the past couple of seasons, arguably one of Munster's most consistent performers to date.

With Brian O’Driscoll bowing out at the end of the season, the Limerick native would be keen to push for the 13 jersey, but may have more opportunities on the wing.

Has not given any indication that he wishes to leave Munster and Penney will hope a contract extension is a formality.

Rhys Ruddock

The 23 year-old back rower has played 13 times this season and featured in each Heineken Cup games bar last week’s victory over Castres.

The abrasive UCD man finds himself in one of Leinster’s most competitive areas of the squad but is putting a marker down with his performances thus far.

Will be keen to add to his one Ireland cap which he received against Australia four years ago, though earning his stripes at Leinster will be the primary motivation and is expected to sign a new deal.

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