March 20, 2018 / 11:27 AM / a year ago

Ireland lock down Best, Kearney and Henderson for World Cup

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - England vs Ireland - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - March 17, 2018 Ireland’s Rory Best celebrates with the Six Nations trophy at the end of the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

(Reuters) - Ireland captain Rory Best, fullback Rob Kearney and second row Iain Henderson extended their contracts with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) on Tuesday in deals that lock the grand slam winning trio down for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Ireland sign their key players to central contracts with the national union, allowing them to manage their time at provincial level and fought off interest from French clubs to tie down CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony until 2021 late last year.

The 26-year-old Ulster lock Henderson, who toured with the British and Irish Lions last year, also signed a new deal which will see him stay in Ireland until at least June 2021.

Leinster fullback Kearney, who started every game of Ireland’s 2014 and 2015 Six Nations winning campaigns as well as every game of the 2009 and 2018 Grand Slam seasons, signed an extension through to November 2019, when he will be 33.

Best, Ireland’s 35-year-old hooker who took the captaincy in 2016 and led the team to their first ever victory over New Zealand as well as a first win over the Springboks on South African soil, will remain on until the end of the World Cup.

“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,” Best said in a statement.

Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru and Padraic Halpin in Dublin, editing by Ed Osmond/Christian Radnedge

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