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O’Brien boost for Ireland

first_imgFlanker Sean O’Brien has rejected the advances of Toulon to sign a new contract to stay with Leinster. “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. “I want to acknowledge the professionalism of all those involved, including the overseas clubs with whom I had discussions, and thank Leinster and the IRFU for their commitment to me. “Finally, a word about the Leinster fans because their ‘voice’ represents an important consideration for players like me when it comes to making big career decisions such as this.” 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 world-class player, and we are delighted that Sean has committed his future to Leinster and Ireland for the next two years.” And Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson said: “We are delighted that Sean has signed a new IRFU contract which keeps him at Leinster up to the end of the 2016 season. “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. “He is a truly world-class player, and we are delighted that his future has now been put to rest.” 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. The IRFU announced that 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. 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. O’Brien was a guest at Toulon’s Heineken Cup clash with Cardiff in Nice on Saturday as he weighed up a lucrative offer to join the cash-rich French giants. Press Associationlast_img read more

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Oz Pace Battery Ready for Lord’s Challenge

first_imgLondon: Right-arm pacer Josh Hazlewood reckons in a bid to level the Ashes, England will be tempted to explore options that are in favour of the bowlers during the Lord’s Test which in turn might just play into Australia’s hands.England, who lost the first Ashes Test by 251 runs at Edgbaston, would be desperate to make a comeback in the five-match series when the two teams meet at the Home of Cricket from August 14.In the Edgbaston Test, Steve Smith proved to be England’s nemesis as he scored hundred in both the innings and made sure Australia came from 122-8 in the first innings to register a big win in Birmingham.Thus, England might be forced to provide pacer friendly conditions which, according to Hazlewood, can prove to be counter-productive for the hosts.“I think there’ll be a little bit more in it (at Lord’s), but in saying that, probably their best exponent Jimmy’s not going to play. So that might weigh up different options, but I think there’ll be more in it, maybe just to try to get Smithy out,” Hazlewood was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.“But him batting on those sort of tracks is very hard work. I think it suits us as much as them if there is more in the wicket, so we’ll weigh it up,” he added.According to Hazlewood, the Australia selectors have covered all bases with the pace options they have picked for this series and would be ready to pace on any kind of wicket which will be on offer in the second Test.“If it’s a dry wicket where reverse swing might come into play, or it’s a very flat, then someone like Mitch Starc can come into play,” said Hazlewood.“If it’s nice and green and seaming around, then it’s myself and Sidds (Peter Siddle). I think they (the selectors) have definitely gone a different way to 2015 and I think that’s purely because of how tight the Tests are (scheduled).“That’s why we’ve got six (quicks) here and any one can do a job on any given day. We’ve got three guys with proper air speed and three guys who seam and swing a little bit. I think that’s what they (selectors) have got six quicks for, to have all bases covered. And I guess it’s just who’s bowling best at that particular time leading into the Test, and who gets the nod. I think every quick really feels the pressure of the other five and vice versa, and its great competition to have in the squad,” he added.Tim Paine went in with the pace trio of Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle for the opening Test and the three quicks picked up 11 wickets during Australia’s win which saw them go 1-0 up in the series.Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Michael Neser, who did not feature in Birmingham, however, provided a sneak peek into what they can offer as they three of them picking seven wickets between them during the practice game against Worcestershire. IANSAlso Read: Jimmy Anderson Ruled out of Lord’s Testlast_img read more