Joe Schmidt denies having a Leinster bias
Irish coach hopes to bring in new players ahead of next year’s World Cup
Ireland’s championship winning coach Joe Schmidt.
A touch of parochialism landed on Joe Schmidt’s porch yesterday. It was only a matter of time. With the simple clarity of the teacher he once was, the Irish coach dealt with accusations of loving Leinster too much with bemused but cool detachment.
Former Irish number eight Denis Leamy spoke for some fans when he said in a column last week “I think what rankles with Munster people – and I suspect some folk in Ulster – is that guys who aren’t first choice in Leinster are still good enough for the national squad.”
Aimed at Ian Madigan, Jordi Murphy and Rhys Ruddock, Leamy questioned Schmidt’s decision to leave Tommy O’Donnell, Donnacha Ryan and Paddy Jackson out of last Saturday’s championship winning side. Seven of eight bench players in Paris were Leinster and eight starters.
Yesterday the coach, flanked by assistants, Australian Les Kiss and New Zealander John Plumtree, put on his Kiwi hat and pretty much laid down the law.
“For me, I select Irish players. If people want to differentiate, if people want to divide that provincially, that’s their prerogative,” he said. “But, as a group, we’re just trying to select the Irish national team. If people are going to be distracted by provincial loyalties, then that is something that is certainly not happening within the group.
“I think there has been a super unity within the group. It is probably always disappointing to get criticised. I can totally understand the perception. But, what I can totally guarantee is that we have all the stats, we watch all the games and we try to do as much homework as we possibly can.”
On selection Schmidt reiterated that the circle of players is wide and that he hopes other names will creep back into contention before next year’s World Cup.
Stephen Ferris played with Ulster at the weekend while Stuart Olding and Luke Marshall have also been injured. Luke Fitzgerald continues to struggle but his news is optimistic while Keith Earls trained with Ireland last Thursday. Others such as JJ Hanrahan and Tadgh Furlong have also emerged in discussions.
“In our discussions, those three names (Hanrahan, Olding, Furlong) have definitely come up,” said Schmidt. “I don’t think that the circle is as tight as people perceive it to be. We would have discussed 55-60 names.
“We can’t select that many, but they are certainly part of the discussion. We want there to be real competition for places and we want to keep an open mind with regard to the form of some of those younger players.”
In Leinster, Madigan, Fergus McFadden, Eoin Reddan, Martin Moore and Murphy all trained with no ill effects from the weekend. Jack McGrath (shoulder) and Sean Cronin (neck) sat out the session with minor knocks.
The other players that started in Paris have the week off and are expected back on Monday ahead of the visit of Munster next week.
In Ulster, assistant coach, Neil Doak, defence coach, Jonny Bell and analyst and skills coach, Niall Malone, have all agreed one-year contract extensions with the Province. With coach Mark Anscombe agreeing his new contract extension last month, it means that Ulster will have an unchanged coaching team until at least the summer of 2015.