Rhys Ruddock has handed Leinster a boost ahead of their back-to-back Champions Cup meetings with Exeter Chiefs by penning a new two-year contract.
The in-form blindside flanker captained Ireland on the summer tour of the United States and Japan last summer and came off the bench in the wins over South Africa and Argentina in November.
It is understood he has committed despite interest from other provinces and abroad and the news comes as a boost to Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster in the week that Jordi Murphy's move to Ulster was confirmed and amid major speculation about two of his international rivals in Munster, Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander.
Indeed, Ruddock's retention on a well-paid provincial deal believed to be worth well in excess of €200,000 per season weakens O'Mahony's bargaining position with the IRFU given the Leinster man's impressive form this year.
Although the Munster skipper got the nod in November, there is little between the two blindsides in the Ireland reckoning and Ruddock (right) is a year younger.
Capped at 19 in 2010 having captained Ireland at U-20 level, he has amassed a total of 19 appearances since but at 27 has become a trusted member of the Leinster back-row who is more than capable of mixing it with the big beasts in European rugby and, if fit, will have a role to play in the coming Six Nations.
Leinster are believed to be on track to completing the majority of their business early, but their policy is to announce their contracts in a batch towards the end of the season.
Their priority this week is producing a big away performance against English champions Exeter at Sandy Park but it appears likely they'll have to do so without the services of Adam Byrne who has been struggling with an injury this week.
Cullen is expected to pair Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose in midfield for the first time this season with the Athlone centre back from his hamstring.
Meanwhile, Munster could be boosted by the presence of Tyler Bleyendaal in their squad to face Leicester Tigers with the out-half close to a return to action.
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