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Leinster put a marker down for the future

SEAN O'BRIEN has done what Leinster need Jamie Heaslip to do.

The commitment by the Carlow farmer to extend his time at the province by two years came as a sign that Leinster can compete with rich French clubs, not on money, but on work-life balance and their care-in-the-community approach to player welfare.

"It is flattering to find yourself the subject of interest from some of the biggest rugby clubs in the world," said O'Brien yesterday following his visit to Toulon last week.

"In the end, I made a decision based on the standard mix of professional and personal considerations. It was a very difficult decision."

The combined factors of the pending 2015 World Cup, Leinster's competitive edge and the quality of his coaches, Matt O'Connor at Leinster and Joe Schmidt at Ireland, have been valuable assets in the IRFU's battle to retain the flank forward.

"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," he said.

"I am very excited about what Ireland can achieve under Joe Schmidt and I am confident that, under Matt O'Connor, Leinster will remain the power in Europe it has been over the past five or six years."

The world will probably never know how close O'Brien really came to exiting the province or whether his courting of the French super-rich was merely a tactic designed to extract the best deal possible from the Irish Rugby Football Union.

"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."

O'Brien is arguably Ireland's greatest playing asset, beside Jonathan Sexton, Jamie Heaslip and Paul O'Connell, as the 2015 World Cup looms large on the horizon.

This is a claim accepted by the IRFU chief executive Phillip Browne, who simply said: "Seán is one of world rugby's stand-out talents."

The Tullow Tank, 26, is currently on the mend from an operation to his dislocated shoulder.

He may not even play again this season.