| 2.2°C Belfast

Earls and Murray both sign new contracts with Munster


Staying put: Keith Earls turned
down a move to Saracens

Staying put: Keith Earls turned down a move to Saracens


Staying put: Keith Earls turned down a move to Saracens

Keith Earls has rejected Saracens' advances to sign a new three-year contact with Munster in a clear boost to Ireland's battle to keep top talents on home soil.

And scrum-half Conor Murray has completed a three-year dual contract with Munster and the IRFU as expected.

But Earls' dual deal with Ireland completes a late about-turn from the Munster centre, who came very close to a move to the Aviva Premiership.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt rubbished suggestions of a mass player drain in the wake of Ian Madigan moving to Bordeaux this summer and Marty Moore heading to Wasps.

And now the head coach's bullish words have been backed up by the IRFU and Munster tying down two prized assets to new long-term deals.

"We are delighted that Keith has signed a new IRFU contract which will see him remain a Munster player until the end of the 2019 season," said IRFU performance director David Nucifora.

"We are delighted that Conor has signed a new IRFU contract too. Conor is a hugely important, admired and respected player and makes a real impact in every game he plays for Munster and Ireland.

"The IRFU are committed to retaining players like Keith and we know that Munster and Ireland supporters will be delighted with today's news."

Schmidt had been at pains to reject outside insinuation that a host of top talents could now take up more lucrative contracts overseas and Ireland remain candid in their determination to prioritise the Test careers of those stars plying their trade on home soil.

Schmidt admitted Madigan's Bordeaux switch could dampen his international ambitions, though Moore only misses the Six Nations due to a hamstring injury.

"There's only Ian Madigan in the squad currently who has signed abroad," he said. "He won't be out of our thoughts, but Paddy Jackson came off the bench in several of the Six Nations matches last year and Ian Keatley started against Italy last year.

"So there is competition for Ian, and there's always a risk in him going away."

Belfast Telegraph