IRFU policy on foreign-based players clear in Ireland squad

There is no place for the likes of Donnacha Ryan, Gareth Steenson or Tadhg Beirne

For those who missed the memo, the IRFU policy of not selecting players that venture overseas has hardened.

"That's probably a fair summation," said Joe Schmidt ahead of Ireland's three Test tour of the USA and Japan when the absence of Donnacha Ryan, Gareth Steenson and Tadhg Beirne was broached.

“It might be more 75-25 [per cent chance of being selected by remaining in Ireland]. I think players are aware of that.”

It means that Ryan’s time in Munster red and, as a result Ireland green, almost certainly ended last Saturday at the Aviva Stadium.


The 33-year-old has signed for Racing 92, potentially his last professional contract, and leaves for Paris because Munster lack the financial resources to match the central contract the 47-times capped lock earned up until now.

Perhaps related, the union just re-signed Jamie Heaslip, also 33, until 2019.

“If we brought Donnacha back in would Dev [Toner] potentially look at going somewhere in the Premiership?” Schmidt wondered.

When it was put to the 51-year-old Kiwi that Ryan was not offered a new deal, Schmidt replied: “He was definitely offered a contract. I don’t think it was a massive financial difference.”

It was not stipulated whether this was a national or provincial contract. Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is on record stating the province could not afford to keep Ryan despite the latter’s 14 years of service.

“People definitely worked hard to keep him,” Schmidt continued. “I know the phone calls I made and discussions I had. I also have huge respect for him . . . he also has valid reasons for doing what he is doing.”

No Irishman playing abroad has been capped since David Nucifora became the IRFU's performance director.

Promising hooker

The Irish Under-20s management even cut promising hooker Tadhg McElroy on the eve of the Junior World Cup. Reportedly, McElroy rejected a Connacht contract to sign for Saracens.

“The door is never closed on a player playing externally,” Schmidt said yesterday. “But it becomes a very difficult calculation. He [Ryan] will be 35 when the World Cup comes about. I know age is just a number. The most important numbers are how many lineouts you win clean, how many rucks you hit well or effective tackles you make.

“But if we are ever going to have a look at these young guys . . .”

Schmidt was referring to towering uncapped locks James Ryan and Kieran Treadwell.

“We’ve got a 20-year-old and a 21-year-old who will be 23 and 24 by the World Cup.”

Quinn Roux, yet again, turned the Ireland coach’s head as this island do not produce 19-stone tighthead locks like the Pretoria-born 26-year-old.

“Quinn is still young. He came to South Africa last year and impressed us. He left the pitch and we were leading 26-10 in Ellis Park, which is a pretty good achievement. He hasn’t spent a lot of time with us since then due to a lot of injuries but this is another opportunity for him to put his hand up and keep us interested.

“Ultan [Dillane],” Schmidt added. “We were very tempted to bring him but in discussion with him we felt he would benefit more from getting a full summer [at home] .”

Schmidt remains “confident” that Beirne, after his brilliant season for the Scarlets, will rejoin an Irish province, possibly in 2018.

“When he’s back playing in Ireland there is a real opportunity for him.”

Proven leader

Rhys Ruddock is the tour captain. A proven leader, Ruddock previously captained Leinster and the Ireland Under-20s, when in 2010 he was pulled from the Junior World Cup in Japan to be capped by Declan Kidney against the Wallabies.

Injuries have ripped gaping holes in his career since, with just 13 caps in seven years, but a brilliant performance against Clermont in the Champions Cup semi-final guaranteed selection. Also, the established leadership group is either recuperating, see Rob Kearney and Heaslip, or in New Zealand with the Lions.

There is one injury withdrawal as Tommy O'Donnell's fine season with Munster will not be rewarded due to an ankle injury. Sean Reidy, the Aucklander who qualified via residency, will skip New Jersey and fly directly from New Zealand to Tokyo.

Simon Zebo "trained fully" on Wednesday, despite a "whack on his knee" in the Pro12 final, and so remains in contention, along with Garry Ringrose, for a Lions call-up.

Rookie coaches Ronan O'Gara and Girvan Dempsey, brought under Schmidt's tutelage this month, have been in camp while Felix Jones will join the group before the second Japan Test in Tokyo.

Only four players – Dave Kilcoyne, Zebo, Toner and Kieran Marmion – remain from the 2013 tour of the US and Canada, when Schmidt quietly arrived in Houston on the eve of that 15-12 victory to begin his reign as Ireland coach.

eir Sport will show all three test matches live.

Ireland Squad Summer Tour 2017 Squad:

Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster, 33 caps), Tiernan O'Halloran (Buccaneers/Connacht, 3), Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster, 1), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster, 59), *Jacob Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster, 8), *Rory O'Loughlin (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster, 9), *Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Leinster, 3), Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster, 23), *John Cooney (Connacht), Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht, 13), Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster, 2), Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster, 67), Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster, 17), Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers), Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster, 4), James Tracey (UCD/Leinster, 2), Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht, 6), *Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster), John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster, 6), Quinn Roux (Galwegians/Connacht, 1), James Ryan (UCD/Leinster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster, 47), *Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster), Rhys Ruddock (Capt, St Mary's College/Leinster, 13), Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster, 1), Dan Leavy (UCD/Leinster, 2), Jack O'Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster, 1), Sean Reidy (Ulster, 1), Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster, 7).

(* Uncapped)


Saturday 10th June, 5pm (Irish time 10pm) Red Bull Arena, New Jersey, USA


Saturday 17th June, 2pm (6am)

Ecopa Stadium, Shizuoka, Japan


Saturday 24th June, 2.40pm (6:40am)

Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo, Japan

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent