Ireland lock Henderson signs contract extension

Dublin (AFP) –


Ireland lock Iain Henderson said on Wednesday he was glad to have "put to bed" uncertainty about his future after signing a two-year extension to his Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) contract.

The 29-year-old Ulster player, who has 60 Test caps, captained Ireland for the first time in their last outing -- a 15-13 defeat by Six Nations favourites France.

His new deal lasts until July 2023, although he said he hoped to be offered another one that would cover the World Cup in France later that year.

"It's been a long process and I am delighted to get to the end of it and put it to bed," he said.

"Maybe a week or so ago I was able to tick that box and I am delighted we are able to announce it finally."

Several other Ireland stars are still negotiating with the IRFU -- captain Johnny Sexton said this week that his deal was all but signed.

Henderson said the length of time taken to agree new deals was not due to overseas clubs making big offers.

A move abroad effectively ends a player's Test career -- Sexton was treated as a special case when he played in France -- as the IRFU selection policy revolves around the provinces.

"I have only ever had eyes for Ireland," said Henderson. "It is difficult but few players would try and play clubs off against each other."

IRFU performance director David Nucifora said: "Over the past few seasons Iain has really developed into a leader within both the Ireland and Ulster squads.

"He is part of the national leadership group, captaining Ireland recently for the first time and we are delighted to have ensured that he continues his career in Ireland."