Robbie Henshaw to join Leinster after Connacht departure
Robbie Henshaw has chosen to leave Connacht for Leinster this summer, on signing his first Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) national contract.
Leinster and the IRFU confirmed Henshaw's long-predicted move to the Dublin-based province, on a three-year deal to run beyond the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Henshaw had his pick of Ireland's PRO12 provinces after agreeing the IRFU deal, and has chosen Leinster, despite Connacht's impressive league form this season.
The IRFU's performance director David Nucifora admitted sympathy for Connacht amid hailing Henshaw's new deal as another boost for Irish rugby, with the 22-year-old centre remaining on home soil.
"I am disappointed for Connacht that Robbie has decided to leave but pleased for Irish rugby that he has committed to a further three years," said Nucifora.
"I know that the decision Robbie has taken to move from Connacht is not one he has taken lightly."
Henshaw will offer a significant boost to Leinster's ranks next term, on a day when the Dublin province confirmed 17 contract renewals.
Former Munster lock Ian Nagle will join Leinster from London Irish this summer, while a host of squad mainstays have extended their existing deals.
Ireland internationals Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Rhys Ruddock, Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kearney are among the nucleus to have had new terms reconfirmed.
Highly-rated young stars Garry Ringrose and Josh van der Flier have also completed new Leinster deals, as the province's squad for next term takes shape.
Henshaw admitted he had wrestled with the decision to leave Connacht, but ultimately felt choosing Leinster would prove the right option.
"I would like to thank Connacht Rugby, the IRFU and Leinster for allowing me time to consider my future," Henshaw said in a statement on the official Irish Rugby Football Union website.
"This has been a long and difficult process and while I am sorry to be leaving Connacht I look forward to the next chapter of my rugby career at Leinster.
"The support I have enjoyed from the fans in the Sportsground and throughout the province is something that I really value, and I want to thank them for four great years."
Henshaw made his debut for Ireland against the USA Eagles in 2013 and has since won 17 caps, forging a solid centre pairing with Jared Payne.
Head coach Cullen admitted Henshaw's signature is a tangible boost for next season.
"We are delighted to have secured Robbie's signature for the next three seasons," said Cullen.
"Robbie is a huge talent and we have all seen that over the last few weeks and months with Ireland in the Six Nations and during the World Cup."