London (AFP) - Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has turned down a potentially lucrative move to France in order to sign a new two-year central contract that will keep him at Munster until at least 2016.
Monday's announcement by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) means the 34-year-old lock is now set to see out his career with his home province.
O'Connell's decision, coming shortly before the start of the Six Nations next month, will be a welcome boost to the IRFU as it bids to keep its top players at home and out of the hands of wealthy French clubs.
Ireland outside-half Jonathan Sexton joined Paris-based Racing Metro at the start of this season.
But O'Connell's fellow back-row, Sean O'Brien, turned down a move to Toulon -- with France's Midi Olympique reporting that Ireland No 8 Jamie Heaslip has also said 'no' to the reigning European champions.
"I am delighted to sign a new IRFU contract and to continue playing with Munster for the next two seasons," said O'Connell in an IRFU statement.
"Over the years I have been privileged to play in many fantastic Munster sides and as we build for the future I am excited by the prospect of playing my part in achieving success with Munster and Ireland in the coming seasons," added the second row, who will look to star for his country in next year's World Cup in England.
O'Connell has made 154 Munster appearances since his debut in 2001 and has been capped 88 times by Ireland.
Three-times a tourist with the British and Irish Lions and captain of the combined side in South Africa in 2009, O'Connell led Munster to European Cup glory in 2008 and the Celtic League title in 2009 and 2011.
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne, who hailed O'Connell as one of Ireland's greatest players, welcomed his decision by saying: "Paul is one of Ireland's greatest ever rugby players and his contribution to the success of Irish rugby over the past decade has been immense.
"We are delighted that the Irish captain has committed his future to Munster and Ireland for the next two years."
Munster coach Rob Penney added: "Paul has contributed so much to Munster over the years and remains one of the best second rows in world rugby.
"His experience and leadership will play a key role in the future development of this young Munster squad."