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Leinster's sigh of relief as O'Brien signs two-year deal with blues

LEINSTER rugby bosses breathed a collective sigh of relief as star forward Sean O'Brien agreed a new two-year contract with the IRFU.

The 26-year old flanker ended weeks of speculation he was off to France after a string of clubs seemed in interested in snapping up the Tullow Tank.

And it seems his loyalty to his province will be rewarded with O'Brien set to become one of the highest-paid players in Ireland, likely to be second only to fellow Leinster back-row Jamie Heaslip.

There were fears that O'Brien had lined out for the Blues for the last time as the Lions flanker is likely to miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury sustained in Leinster's victory over Ulster in their Rabodirect PRO 12 league tie at the RDS.

The Carlow native, who spends his time off the field working at home on his farm in Tullow, had met with representatives from Toulon only last week and appeared to be dead-set on a move to a sunnier climate.



However the Tullow Tank's decision to stay loyal has been welcomed by a chorus of voices including Leinster team manager Guy Easterby who said it was important for club and country that O'Brien stayed in Ireland.

"We are absolutely delighted. It is fantastic news for both Leinster and Ireland," he said.

Yesterday Leinster coach Matt O'Connor had expressed the view that O'Brien wanted to stay at home and felt he would remain loyal to Leinster despite reports of interest from France.

Meanwhile, hooker Richardt Strauss has made a sensational return from heart surgery to make the bench for Leinster against The Ospreys in the Heineken Cup tomorrow night.

The South African native has made much better than expected progress from an operation in October.