Cape Town - Ireland stalwarts Rory Best and Rob Kearney have signed IRFU contract extensions to run until the end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Best, who took over the Ireland captaincy in 2016 ahead of the Six Nations, has won 111 caps for his country, making him Ireland's third most capped player.
Under his stewardship, Ireland recorded their first win over the Springboks on South African soil as well as recording a first ever victory over New Zealand in Chicago in November 2016.
On St Patrick's Day, Best secured a fourth Six Nations title and second Grand Slam title having played in the successful 2009, 2014, 2015 and 2018 campaigns.
He made his international debut against New Zealand in 2005 and has scored nine international tries, as well as touring with the British & Irish Lions in 2013 and 2017.
Best has represented his province 204 times, scoring 21 tries. The hooker was reappointed Ulster captain at the beginning of this season, having first held the honour from 2007 to 2011.
Commenting on his new contract, Best said: "I am in a very privileged position as captain of Ireland and Ulster to be involved with two groups of incredibly talented players.
“I feel I can continue to make a contribution to both Ireland and Ulster and am delighted to have extended my IRFU contract to the next World Cup.
"Support of family, friends and supporters is a hugely important element for any professional sportsperson and I would like to thank everyone for their support, but specifically my wife Jodie who has been incredible and has ensured that as a family we have been able to share in all the great memories of the last few years."
Bryn Cunningham, operations director at Ulster, added: "Rory will go down as one of the most successful Ireland captains in history. To have that sort of leadership and experience in our squad, both on and off the pitch, is critical.
“We are a squad in transition and Rory will provide that stability and assuredness, while being a role model to our young players coming through, showing what it means to play for Ulster and the high standards we expect from all."
IRFU performance director David Nucifora was also delighted to see Best re-sign with the province and Ireland.
"Rory has been an outstanding leader for Ireland and continues to produce stand-out performances at the highest level of the game,” Nucifora said. “He is an important member of the Ireland leadership group and we are delighted that he will continue to play a central role in Irish rugby."
Best is joined by Leinster fullback Kearney in committing to the country. The 31-year-old has made a massive contribution to the province’s on-field success with three Heineken Cups, an Amlin Challenge Cup and three PRO12/Celtic league titles and was named ERC Player of the Year in 2012.
He made his competitive senior debut for Leinster against the Ospreys in September 2005 and has since made 193 appearances, scoring 223 points.
Kearney made his Ireland debut against Argentina in June 2007 and has won 83 caps for the national team, scoring 13 tries and a conversion. He started every game of the successful 2014 and 2015 championship campaigns, as well as every game of the 2009 and 2018 Grand Slam seasons.
Kearney said: “I am delighted to have extended my IRFU contract and look forward to continuing to achieve with this Ireland squad.
“There have been some fantastic days for both Ireland and Leinster over the course of my career and there is huge potential for growth in both squads as we look to build and develop and challenge for honours.”
Performance director Nucifora added: “Rob has continually illustrated his value to Irish rugby over a stellar career and in his 11th season in a green jersey has produced stand-out performances. He is a leader and a fantastic example to young professionals at Leinster and with the national squad.”