Leo Cullen promised to do his utmost to ensure Leinster veterans Rob Kearney and Fergus McFadden get to play out the perfect-world scenarios to bring their careers with the province to a satisfying end.
Full-back Kearney and utility back McFadden, both aged 34, would have been out of contract on June 30 and potentially having played the final games of long and illustrious careers in blue when Irish rugby shut down due to the Government’s Covid-19 lockdown in March. Yet both men have signed short-term contracts that will enable them to see out the remainder of the 2019-20 season when it resumes in late August as Leinster bid to complete a Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup double.
The contract signings were announced on Thursday as Leinster announced the confirmation of 28 new contracts for the 2020-21 season, including the promotion to senior contracts of academy graduates Ryan Baird, Harry Byrne, Jack Dunne, Tommy O’Brien and Dan Sheehan. The announcement also confirmed the PRO14 defending champions’ list of departees, including Australia centre Joe Tomane.
Of the short-term deals for Kearney, who has made 218 appearances and earned 95 Ireland caps, and McFadden, with 184 provincial caps and 34 Ireland appearances, Cullen said: “They are two guys who are one-club men, and what they’ve delivered for the province and also with Ireland, they’ve both had amazing careers.
“So for them to get the opportunity to hopefully finish out the season the way you would have, the perfect-world sort of scenario we all aim for, for all our guys, hopefully that does work out the way we intended.
“They are two great characters and I’ve been fortunate enough to play with both the lads and coach as well in more recent years and we just want to do everything we can to make sure they finish out well. I look forward to getting back to work with both of them.”
There is one notable omission from the list of contracted players with Ireland star Garry Ringrose absent from the confirmed contracts but it is understood the centre has signed but not announced a central IRFU contract.
Cullen also lauded the fact that 23 of those 28 listed players had come through the Leinster Academy system, including the latest graduates, of whom Sheehan is the only one yet to make a senior appearance.
“We are delighted to be able to confirm the list of 28 contracts today and in particular with so many of them coming through the clubs and the schools of Leinster. A huge amount of work goes into developing players at all levels of the game so it’s incredibly pleasing for us to have five players promoted directly from our Academy.
"It is always a hugely special day for them, their families and their clubs and schools so I would like to congratulate Ryan, Harry, Jack, Tommy and Dan.”
PRO14 league leaders Leinster are set to restart their league season with the other three Irish provinces at Aviva Stadium on August 22 with two rounds of interprovincial matches on successive weekends finalising the play-off semi-final line-ups. There will be two rounds of knockout rugby to conclude the PRO14 campaign in early September and on Thursday Leinster also learned that the new date of their Champions Cup quarter-final at home to defending champions Saracens will be on the weekend of September 18-20
“Our focus now is making sure our training environment is as good and safe as it can be as we look to prepare for the completion of our Guinness PRO14 campaign and of course our eagerly-awaited showdown against Saracens in the Quarter-Final of the Heineken Champions Cup," Cullen said.
Leinster Rugby – New Senior Contracts:
1. Vakh Abdaladze, 11 Leinster Caps (LC), 1 Leinster Tries (T)*
2. Ryan Baird, 7 LC, 3 T
3. Michael Bent, 4 Ireland Caps (IC), 135 LC, 4 T
4. Adam Byrne, 1 IC, 57 LC, 20 T
5. Ed Byrne, 52 LC, 7 T
6. Harry Byrne, 9 LC, 2 T
7. Ross Byrne, 6 IC, 84 LC, 5 T
8. Will Connors, 15 LC, 2 T
9. Seán Cronin, 72 IC, 181 LC, 41 T
10. Peter Dooley, 76 LC, 2 T
11. Caelan Doris, 2 IC, 29 LC, 4 T
12. Jack Dunne, 7 LC, 0 T
13. Scott Fardy, 39 Australia Caps (AC), 58 LC, 10 T
14. Jordan Larmour, 24 IC, 46 LC, 12 T
15. Dan Leavy, 11 IC, 63 LC, 14 T
16. James Lowe, 43 LC, 28 T
17. Ross Molony, 95 LC, 3 T
18. Josh Murphy, 32 LC, 2 T
19. Tommy O’Brien, 3 LC, 1 T
20. Rory O’Loughlin, 1 IC, 67 LC, 21 T
21. Rowan Osborne, 4 LC, 1 T
22. Andrew Porter, 26 IC, 62 LC, 9 T
23. Rhys Ruddock, 26 IC, 172 LC, 10 T
James Ryan, 26 IC, 37 LC, 2 T**
25. Dan Sheehan, 0 LC, 0 T
26. Devin Toner, 70 IC, 244 LC, 4 T
27. James Tracy, 6 IC, 108 LC, 8 T
28. Josh van der Flier, 26 IC, 80 LC, 9 T
Academy Players Promoted to Senior Squad:
1. Ryan Baird
2. Harry Byrne
3. Jack Dunne
4. Tommy O’Brien
5. Dan Sheehan
Leinster Rugby – Departees:
1. Jack Aungier, 5 LC, 0 T
2. Bryan Byrne, 47 LC, 12 T
3. Barry Daly, 36 LC, 19 T
4. Oisín Dowling, 6 LC, 0 T
5. Gavin Mullin, 2 LC, 0 T
6. Roman Salanoa, 3 LC, 0 T
7. Joe Tomane, 17 AC, 21 LC, 3 T