Ireland Pair Sign On Again . . . As Wales Duo Leave Cardiff For London

Wales , United Kingdom - 4 February 2023; James Ryan of Ireland in action against Dillon Lewis of Wales during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ireland Pair Sign On Again . . . As Wales Duo Leave Cardiff For London

By Paul Jones

The confirmation of the departures of Wales pair Dillon Lewis and Jarrod Evans has been put into sharp focus by Leinster’s retention of two key Ireland internationals.

On the day that Harlequins announced the capture of both prop Lewis and outside-half Evans for next season, Leinster revealed James Ryan and Josh van der Flier had signed on again with the IRFU.

Lewis and Evans are leaving the financial uncertainty of Cardiff and the other Welsh regions behind amid reduced wages and delayed contract offers.

The pair both came through the Pontypridd and Cardiff systems, but have now decided their futures lie in London and the English Premiership.

Lewis won his 50th cap during the recent Six Nations and will still be available for Warren Gatland’s side after the restriction on selecting players outside Wales was dropped from 60 to 25 appearances.

But Evans, who has only eight caps, will be unavailable for Wales by moving to London but the prospect of a better deal and a more secure future has weighed strongly in favour of the switch.

He will play back-up to England No. 10 Marcus Smith at Quins but in a World Cup season next term, he is likely to get plenty of game time.

Lewis will replace South Africa international Wilco Louw, who is returning home at the end of the season.

“I’m over the moon to have signed and can’t wait to get going in the summer. I am looking forward to meeting the boys and playing at The Stoop,” Lewis said.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with Adam Jones and the likes of Joe Marler and Will Collier. I have big aspirations to improve as a player.”

By way of contrast, while two players are leaving the Welsh capital, in Dublin, Irish players are rolling from existing contracts to new ones with few issues to complicate the picture.

Ryan has signed a two year contract extension with the IRFU until the end of the 2024/25 season while van der Flier has penned a deal until the end of the 2025/26.

Ryan is a central figure in the Irish squad and made his debut against the USA in New Jersey in 2017 at the age of 20. He has 53 caps for Ireland and captained the side on seven occasions.

He played a central role for Ireland in the 2018 and 2023 Grand Slam successes as well as securing the Triple Crown in 2022.

He started all three Tests against New Zealand in July helping Ireland secure their first Series win in Aotearoa. Ryan also played in all four of Ireland’s matches in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

For Leinster, Ryan has won a Heineken Champions Cup (2018) and four PRO/URC titles in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. He has made 71 appearances to date for Leinster and scored four tries.

“The ambition of Leinster and Ireland to improve each day and win trophies is one of the reason why it is so enjoyable to be part of these squads,” said Ryan.

“I have also been fortunate to captain my country over the past couple of seasons which has been an incredibly proud moment for me and my family.”

World Player of the Year Josh van der Flier won his 50th cap for Ireland against England in the final round of their Six Nations Grand Slam campaign.

The back row forward made his debut against England in the 2016 Grand Slam campaign and was part of Ireland’s first ever win over New Zealand that year.

The 26-year-old has 125 appearance for Leinster, scoring 25 tries and has won a Heineken Cup (2018) and four PRO14/URC titles in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. He was also named EPCR European Player of the Year in 2022.

Van der Flier said: “It is a privilege to be a part of two incredible rugby environments. I am very grateful to the coaches at both Leinster and Ireland who have helped my game over the years.

“I appreciate that I get to go to work each day with some of my best friends, doing something that I love and I am thankful for the incredible support of my wife and family who have been with me for every step of this journey so far”.

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