Leinster announce Kelleher arrival, promote seven young stars to senior squad
One of the worst kept secrets in Irish rugby has finally, and officially, been confirmed.
Leinster Rugby has announced the signing of 18 new contracts to go along with the extensions for Cian Healy, Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton. But what of Rob Kearney?
The Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 finalists usually release their contract updates in a batch but one new arrival has been flagged since late last year. Connacht announced, earlier this season, that Cian Kelleher would be leaving the province.
Leinster was said to be the destination but the province and the player's own representative refused to comment until an official announcement was due. Now that Leinster have announced that Kelleher is to return to his home province, the player has spoken.
"It was an opportunity too good to refuse when it came up," he says, "and I can’t wait to get started and compete in an extremely competitive environment. I hope to add to the incredible success the province has had in the last couple of seasons."
Kelleher will be joined in the senior squad, next season, by his younger brother Ronan, who is one of seven academy players to have been awarded a senior contract.
- Ciarán Frawley
- Hugo Keenan
- Rónan Kelleher
- Conor O’Brien
- Jimmy O’Brien
- Hugh O’Sullivan
- Scott Penny
Leinster also announced new contracts for Bryan Byrne, Jack Conan, Max Deegan, Scott Fardy, Ciaran Frawley, Jamison Gibson-Park, Dave Kearney, Hugo Keenan, Dan Leavy, Fergus McFadden, Luke McGrath, Josh Murphy, Conor O'Brien, Jimmy O'Brien, Hugh O'Sullivan and Scott Penny.
Notably, there is no contract for the province's most decorated player. Rob Kearney looks set to play his final game for the province on Saturday - in the Guinness PRO14 final - as he was not on the list. He is contracted with Leinster until November of this year but will be hoping to be in Japan at the World Cup.
"My contract is up until November, after the World Cup," Rob Kearney told us at the start of this season.
"There's no end in sight. When I was younger, I always wanted to make sure than I'd enjoy the last few years of my career and that I'd never put myself under any sort pressure.
"Two years ago if you had asked me [if the end was in sight], you know, the body was starting to give up. I would have said that it'd be the World Cup and I'd be done.
"If this season goes as well as last year did, and the body and mind are still in a good place, I would certainly be looking to play on, in some capacity."
There is a chance that Rob Kearney could be offered a new deal, after the World Cup, but the veteran fullback may opt to hang up his boots when Ireland's involvement in the tournament ceases.