O’Connell hands Munster and Ireland boost with new contract

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Ireland lock Paul O’Connell has given Irish rugby a major boost by rejecting lucrative overseas offers to sign a new two-year contract with Munster.

The deal with the IRFU runs until the summer of 2016 and will take the Irish captain to 15 seasons with his home province.

“Over the years I have been privileged to play in many fantastic Munster sides,” said O’Connell.

“I am excited by the prospect of playing my part in achieving success with Munster and Ireland.”

The 34-year-old joins fellow Munster team-mates Conor Murray, Donnacha Ryan and second row partner Donncha O’Callaghan, as well as international colleagues Sean O’Brien and Rory Best in deciding to play their rugby in Ireland.

There was also speculation surrounding Keith Earls’ future with London Irish interested in bringing him to the Madjeski Stadium, but he too has committed himself to the Red Army for another two years.

The news is sure to boost Ireland coach Josef Schmidt as he prepares his squad for this year’s Six Nations tournament and the World Cup in 2015.

Ireland are 6/1 to win this year’s tournament and 12/1 for a Grand Slam and with O’Connell leading from the front, alongside the likes of Brian O’Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

The British and Irish Lions lock has been in excellent form for Munster as they reached the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup with five wins from six games and they also currently sit top of the RaboDirect PRO12.

Munster, who will face Toulouse at Thomond Park for a place in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup, are 9/1 to lift the trophy and with O’Connell on board for the future and fully focused on rugby it would be difficult to back against a repeat of Munster’s 2008 European Cup success.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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