With the IRFU contracts of Cian Healy, Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton already announced, Leinster boss Leo Cullen has confirmed an additional 18 contracts have been signed as the Irish province builds for the 2019/20 season and beyond.
However, last season’s Champions Cup/PRO14 double champions were unable to provide any update on the contract situation of Rob Kearney. The veteran is on a centrally funded IRFU contract, but he has yet to agree renewal terms and speculation he could leave was stoked recently by a social media message by Sean O’Brien, who himself is leaving for London Irish.
“It’s a credit to the work that goes on in the schools and in the clubs that we are in a position to confirm 21 new contracts, with all but three coming through the system here,” said Cullen.
“Over the last 20 months or so we have been able to hand debuts to nine academy players and they have deserved those opportunities. And now seven players that started this season in the academy will start next season as senior players.
“I’m delighted for them and indeed their families and congratulate them on their promotion. We have been very happy with what we have seen from them all in the Guinness PRO14 and in some cases in the Heineken Champions Cup and we hope that they get many more chances in a Leinster jersey in the coming years.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) May 21, 2019
“It’s also exciting to welcome Cian Kelleher back to Leinster. We have always kept a close eye on his progress at Connacht and it’s great that we can now welcome him back to Leinster and we wish him well in what is already a very competitive position in the team.”
Kelleher left the Leinster academy in 2016 to join Connacht and has since scored 14 tries in 54 appearances. Prior to joining Connacht he had played seven times for Leinster, scoring one try against Zebre in the RDS. He made his Leinster debut at Murrayfield against Edinburgh in the last game of the 2014/15 season.
Speaking about the move Kelleher said: “I’m incredibly excited to get back to my home province this summer and get started in an unbelievable set up in Leinster. It was an opportunity too good to refuse when it came up 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 now join younger brother Rónan in the Leinster senior squad, with his younger sibling graduating from the academy having made two appearances in the PRO14 this term. Included in the list of 21 contracts are eight Irish internationals with 294 caps between them and three British and Irish Lions.
Leinster Rugby – New Senior Contracts 2019/20:
1. Bryan Byrne, 41 Leinster Caps (LC), 12 Leinster Tries (T)
2. Jack Conan, 14 Ireland Caps (IC), 88 LC, 21 T
3. Max Deegan, 45 LC, 11 T
4. Scott Fardy, 39 Australia Caps, 43 LC, 9 T
5. Ciarán Frawley, 14 LC, 1 T
6. Jamison Gibson-Park, 70 LC, 15 T
7. Cian Healy, 2 British & Irish Lions Caps (BIL), 88 IC, 2017 LC, 22 T
8. Robbie Henshaw, 4 BIL, 37 IC, 36 LC, 7 T
9. Dave Kearney, 17 IC, 136 LC, 29 T
10. Hugo Keenan, 5 LC, 1 T
11. Cian Kelleher, 7 LC, 1 T
12. Rónan Kelleher, 2 LC
13. Dan Leavy, 11 IC, 63 LC, 16 T
14. Fergus McFadden, 34 IC, 178 LC, 27 T
15. Luke McGrath, 10 IC, 112 LC, 29 T
16. Josh Murphy, 21 LC, 1 T
17. Conor O’Brien, 17 LC, 6 T
18. Jimmy O’Brien, 7 LC, 3 T
19. Hugh O’Sullivan, 14 LC
20. Scott Penny, 6 LC, 2 T
21. Johnny Sexton, 14 BIL, 83 IC, 159 LC, 25 T
Academy Players Promoted to Senior Squad
1. Ciarán Frawley
2. Hugo Keenan
3. Rónan Kelleher
4. Conor O’Brien
5. Jimmy O’Brien
6. Hugh O’Sullivan
7. Scott Penny
Leinster Rugby – Departees 2018/19
1. Tom Daly, 12 LC, 2 T
2. Mick Kearney, 51 LC, 1 T
3. Nick McCarthy, 35 LC, 4 T
4. Jack McGrath, 7 BIL, 54 IC, 145 LC, 12 T
5. Ian Nagle, 19 LC
6. Seán O’Brien, 11 BIL, 56 IC, 126 LC, 20 T
7. Noel Reid, 1 IC, 121 LC, 17 Tries
WATCH: The RugbyPass behind the scenes documentary on the 2018 PRO14 final that was won by Leinster
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