Rory Best and Rob Kearney extend IRFU deals until 2019 World Cup

Rory Best and Rob Kearney extend IRFU deals until 2019 World Cup

Ireland captain Rory Best and full-back Rob Kearney have signed new contracts with the Irish Rugby Football Union until the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

It follows Ireland's Grand Slam glory on St. Patrick’s Day in which Best secured a fourth Six Nations title and his second Grand Slam title, having played in the successful 2009, 2014, 2015 and 2018 campaigns.

Ulster's Best said: "I am in a very privileged position as captain of Ireland and Ulster to be involved with two groups of incredibly talented players.

"I feel I can continue to make a contribution to both Ireland and Ulster Rugby and am delighted to have extended my IRFU contract to the next World Cup.

"Support of family, friends and supporters is a hugely important element for any professional sportsperson and I would like to thank everyone for their support, but specifically my wife Jodie who has been incredible and has ensured that as a family we have been able to share in all the great memories of the last few years."

Brought up through the ranks of Banbridge RFC, Best made his senior debut for Ulster against Munster in November 2004, before making his national debut the following year against New Zealand.

Best has represented his province 204 times, scoring 21 tries. The hooker was reappointed Ulster captain at the beginning of this season, having first held the honour from 2007 to 2011.

Bryn Cunningham, Operations Director at Ulster Rugby, said: "Rory will go down as one of the most successful Ireland captains in history. To have that sort of leadership and experience in our squad, both on and off the pitch, is critical.

"We are a squad in transition and Rory will provide that stability and assuredness, while being a role model to our young players coming through, showing what it means to play for Ulster and the high standards we expect from all."

Best, who took over the Ireland captaincy in 2016 ahead of the Six Nations Championship, has won 111 caps for his country, making him Ireland’s third most capped player.

He made his international debut against New Zealand in 2005 and has scored nine international tries, as well as touring with the British and Irish Lions in 2013 and 2017.

Under his stewardship, Ireland recorded their first win over the Springbok son South African soil as well as recording a first-ever victory over New Zealand in Chicago in November 2016.

IRFU, Performance Director, David Nucifora, said: "Rory has been an outstanding leader for Ireland and continues to produce stand-out performances at the highest level of the game.

"He is an important member of the Ireland leadership group and we are delighted that he will continue to play a central role in Irish rugby."

Kearney has accumulated 83 caps since making his debut in 2007 and started every match of the 2018 campaign, culminating in an outstanding performance against England.

Rory Best and Rob Kearney extend IRFU deals until 2019 World Cup

"I am delighted to have extended my IRFU contract and look forward to continuing to achieve with this Ireland squad," the Leinster double British and Irish Lions tourist said.

"There have been some fantastic days for both Ireland and Leinster over the course of my career and there is huge potential for growth in both squads as we look to build and develop and challenge for honours."

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