Monday 11 December 2017

Joe Schmidt says ‘it’s up to Connacht to make stars want to stay’

Conor George

Conor George

JOE SCHMIDT ramped up the war of words between Leinster and Connacht by saying the western province are not doing enough to keep their players at the Sportsground.

And the two-time Heineken Cup-winning coach said there were more Connacht players who want to follow Mike McCarthy to the European champions, something that will cause huge concern out west.

Connacht reacted angrily at the news that their Ireland second-row was moving east, accusing Leinster of "persistently pursuing" the player who follows Sean Cronin, Fionn Carr and Jamie Hagan in making the move.

Schmidt described that claim as "false" in a withering response to the Connacht complaints.

"It is up to Connacht to build an environment where their better players want to stay with them," Schmidt said.


"Mike is not the only Connacht player to express an interest in coming to Leinster. I do have sympathy for Connacht, but at the same time we have to do what is best for Leinster. We tried to find solutions elsewhere but for different reasons they didn't come off.

"Two years ago Mike came very close to joining us, but opted to stay with Connacht, largely because of Eric Elwood's presence, I think. Obviously, Eric is leaving at the end of the season and there is a bit more uncertainty there as a consequence."

And Schmidt claimed that contrary to some opinions having McCarthy playing for Leinster will ultimately benefit Ireland. "If Richardt Strauss is throwing to Mike McCarthy every week at club level and Mike is pushing behind Mike Ross or Cian Healy on a daily basis in training and in matches, then how can that not help Ireland?

"I believe that having Mike in Leinster will help enormously with continuity and for Ireland it will help with combinations."

Connacht reacted strongly to Schmidt's comments, with Sears calling for the IRFU to review their procedures around players moving between the provinces.

"It is interesting to note that he sees these actions as good for Irish rugby," Sears said in a Connacht statement.

"We would take a very different view that the constant targeting of our senior players, if allowed to continue, will have a detrimental effect on the IRFU's desire to see four strong provinces representing Irish rugby and producing players for the national squad.

"Regarding comments made on the protocols to approach players from another provinces, we do not believe the protocols are sufficient or serve Irish rugby well and I know the IRFU have recently discussed reviewing these in the near future."

Meanwhile, Schmidt revealed that a decision on Kevin McLaughlin's availability for tomorrow's game against Clermont at the Aviva Stadium will be made this morning.

McLaughlin (pictured above) was involved in a nasty clash of heads with Shane Jennings in last week's game against the same opposition and has not taken part in any contact sessions this week.

"Kevin was running today and is showing no ill-effects after the weekend. He is anxious to play of course, but we won't be taking any chances. We will see what his test scores are and will make a decision based on them and on how Kevin himself is feeling," Schmidt added.

Irish Independent

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