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Sean O'Brien decision to stay is shot in arm for Ireland

By Nicl Purewal

Flanker Sean O'Brien has rejected the advances of Toulon to sign a new contract to stay with Leinster.

The 26-year-old's new central contract is a clear boost to the Irish Rugby Football Union, which confirmed the news in a tweet.

The union had feared losing the imposing back-rower to the Top 14, where he could have earned a salary of 600,000 euro – twice is current wage.

O'Brien was a guest at Toulon's Heineken Cup clash with Cardiff in Nice last Saturday as he weighed up a lucrative offer to join the cash-rich French giants.

Instead he has pledged his future to home province Leinster and the Ireland national team.

Ireland bosses will now turn their attention to O'Brien's Leinster team-mate Jamie Heaslip, with the 30-year-old out of contract in the summer and also considering an offer from Toulon.

O'Brien will miss the upcoming RBS 6 Nations with a shoulder injury, but his renewed commitment will increase IRFU confidence it can now convince Heaslip to follow suit.

Ireland and Lions fly-half Johnny Sexton joined Racing Metro in the summer, leaving his national team bosses with no say on how frequently he plays.

The 28-year-old was put through 13 games in 10 weeks in the build-up to Ireland's autumn series, culminating in a hamstring injury that left head coach Joe Schmidt admitting Ireland had "lost control" of the player.

O'Brien's decision to stay put is another shot in the arm for Irish home comforts, with the IRFU proud of its player welfare initiatives that ensure its top stars are carefully managed to peak for international action.

O'Brien has agreed a two-year deal that will see him remain at Leinster until at least June 2016.

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 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."

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 a world-class player and we are delighted that Sean has committed his future to Leinster and Ireland for the next two years."

Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson said: "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."

* VENUES and dates for Ireland's two-Test tour of Argentina this summer have been confirmed.

The first Test is on Saturday, June 7 at the Estadio Centenario in Resistencia in the north east.

The second Test is on Saturday, June 14 at the Estadio José Fierro in Tucumán in the north west.

Ireland have played 13 Tests against the Pumas, winning eight and losing five. The most recent was in November 2012 in the Aviva, the hosts winning 42-24.

Ireland last toured Argentina in 2007, the Pumas winning both Tests.

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