THE IRFU have won the battle for Sean O’Brien’s signature after a protracted series of negotiations ended this morning in the Tullow native signing a new deal.
Commenting on the new contract Sean O'Brien said: "It is flattering to find yourself the subject of interest from some of the biggest rugby clubs in the world but in the end I made a decision based on the standard mix of professional and personal considerations.
"It was a very difficult decision but, with a World Cup next year and the fact that I believe Leinster can continue to win trophies, I have decided to commit my immediate future to the club.
"I want to acknowledge the professionalism of all those involved, including the overseas clubs with whom I had discussions, and thank Leinster and the IRFU for their commitment to me.
"Finally a word about the Leinster fans because their "voice" represents an important consideration for players like me when it comes to making big career decisions such as this.”
Leinster CEO Mick Dawson added: "We are delighted that Sean has signed a new IRFU contract which keeps him at Leinster up to the end of the 2016 season. We were always hopeful that the environment we have created here at Leinster and the ambition of the club would be a strong factor in Sean's decision. He is a truly world class player and we are delighted that his future has now been put to rest.”
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne added: "Sean is one of world rugby's stand-out talents.
"He has proven for Leinster, Ireland and the Lions that he is world-class player, and we are delighted that Sean has committed his future to Leinster and Ireland for the next two years."
And Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson said: "We are delighted that Sean has signed a new IRFU contract which keeps him at Leinster up to the end of the 2016 season.
"We were always hopeful that the environment we have created here at Leinster and the ambition of the club would be a strong factor in Sean's decision.
"He is a truly world-class player, and we are delighted that his future has now been put to rest."
O’Brien visited the European champions last weekend, taking in their game against Cardiff Blues in Nice but a fresh offer from the union made yesterday has persuaded him to remain in Ireland.
The agreement represents a significant coup for the IRFU who are still in negotiations with Jamie Heaslip, Paul O’Connell and Keith Earls.
Heaslip has also spoken to Toulon about a move and it remains to be seen what impact the O’Brien deal has on his future with the mega-rich French club targeting an international class back-row forward for next season.
O’Brien is currently recuperating from shoulder surgery and will miss this year’s Six Nations, but the 26-year-old’s decision to stay is a major boost to Joe Schmidt’s long-term hopes while it will also come as a major relief to Leinster fans who feared he would follow Jonathan Sexton to France.