Saturday 10 December 2016

'It does piss you off': Fitzgerald blasts 'wrong' use of residency rules

Published 26/10/2016 | 02:30

Former Leinster and Ireland winger Luke Fitzgerald is adamant that the IRFU should focus on home-grown players, instead of looking abroad. SPORTSFILE
Former Leinster and Ireland winger Luke Fitzgerald is adamant that the IRFU should focus on home-grown players, instead of looking abroad. SPORTSFILE

Luke Fitzgerald has hit out at Ireland's use of the controversial residency rule as he believes that the international game has become too "diluted".

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On the day that Bundee Aki signed a three-year contract extension with Connacht - which means the Kiwi will be eligible to play for Ireland next year - Fitzgerald said he backed World Rugby's decision to review the current regulation that allow players to play international rugby after a period of three years living in their adopted country.

The former Leinster and Ireland winger is adamant that the IRFU should focus on home-grown players, instead of looking abroad.

"I think it's wrong," he said. "That's controversial and it's no reflection on those guys. They're doing everything within the rules. I want to see Irish guys in there.

"Are we not good enough to fill the spots? I don't know if there's a big enough gap to justify it? Garry (Ringrose) looks awesome, Robbie's (Henshaw) brilliant, Stuart Olding, Luke Marshall.

"I don't know if being born in a different part of the world makes you a better player. If they're not making their international teams, why would we be taking them? Is that an admission we're not as good as them? I'm sure it is. Would it affect me if there was a guy from another place getting picked ahead of me? I've been in that spot and it does piss you off.

"You've come all the way up through the systems and then all of a sudden some guy comes in and is perceived to be better because he's from a different place and it's, 'Let's get this guy in'.

"It's really disappointing. It really dilutes it. What's the point? It's like Barbarians versus Barbarians, why do that? I don't understand that."

It also emerged yesterday that Joe Schmidt has already spoken with Aki ahead of his Connacht contract extension.

Schmidt, meanwhile, will be sweating over the fitness of Iain Henderson ahead of next weekend's clash against New Zealand after he picked up a shoulder injury against Exeter.

Read more: Gordon D'Arcy hoping the 'most important asset in Irish rugby' can lead Ireland to historic All Blacks win

In more positive news, Stuart Lancaster confirmed that Johnny Sexton is fit enough to train this week. Sean O'Brien is expected to start against Connacht on Saturday in a bid to prove his fitness before the trip to Chicago.

Elsewhere, Keith Earls, who was sent off against Glasgow last weekend for an alleged dangerous tackle, will have his case heard by a disciplinary committee today.

Irish Independent

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