Sunday 27 May 2018

Comment: Carbery-Byrne debacle proves that the IRFU succession policy has to change or provinces will suffer

Joey Carbery and Ross Byrne
Joey Carbery and Ross Byrne
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

The air must have been very heavy when Joe Schmidt and David Nucifora delivered the news to Leo Cullen that one of his prized youngsters must be jettisoned.

Delivering the bombshell a week before the province's Champions Cup semi-final at the Aviva was clumsy and an ill-thought action, something you wouldn't associate with the Kiwi.

The IRFU appear to be firmly in Schmidt's corner on this.

Cullen has delivered a first Champions Cup final appearance in six year and has done it in style but this attempt to alter the tactics that have helped Leinster thrive this season will feel like a kick in the teeth.

Schmidt wants Carbery to see more game time at 10 but Cullen prefers to use Byrne when Sexton is being rested.

A quote from the movie Lucky Number Slevin delivered brilliantly by Ben Kingsley when he discusses why he needed to kill off Morgan Freeman character seems apt: "The problem when two men are standing in a room is you can only look at one of them, and they were looking at you, their backs turned, their shirt collars smiling at me. Then they called you The Boss. It was clear what had to be done."

The fact of the matter is, Schmidt is 'The Boss' in this scenario and all that remains to be decided is who makes the trip to the Kingspan Stadium.

The fact that Leinster will be weakened next season should, God forbid, anything happen to Johnny Sexton is secondary to Schmidt's preparation for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The fact that neither Carbery nor Byrne are happy with the thought of plying their trade in Belfast will also take a backseat to our World Cup ambitions.

Given the sensitivities involved, who wants to be the man to take over from Paddy Jackson at 10 in the nine counties?

Protecting Sexton ahead of next year's World Cup and managing his workload is best served by the status quo remaining.

This situation is complicated by the fact that it involves the crucial flyhalf position, the fulcrum for any side, and it's not just Ulster who are looking longingly at the riches Leinster possess.

Ian Keatley's failure to fire in Bordeaux highlighted the need for greater firepower in the Munster number 10 shirt. He's a fine back-up  and has  had a great season but Munster won't win a European Cup with him playing from the start.

The failure to keep Ian Madigan and Ruan Pienaar, players who wanted to stay here, was a huge mistake and the IRFU are scrambling to rectify it now.

Munster would have welcomed Madigan with open arms and he would not have been averse to the move.

Pienaar's move to Montpellier left Ulster depleted but Jackson's unavailability led to a selection crisis and the mess at Ulster stemmed from it.

So what happens now?

In my opinion, the IRFU need to review its succession policy, in particular for the position of flyhalf which is so pivotal to the success of any team.

The policy dictates that non-Irish qualified players are restricted to one per field position across the four provinces, and generally operate on a ‘one-contract-and-out’ basis.

If the IRFU allowed both Munster and Ulster to go out and recruit a quality 10 from overseas given the extenuating circumstances the Messrs Byrne and Carbery could stay where they are.

Finding two quality outhalves and convincing them to come here rather than big-spending clubs in France or England is the sticking point.

The IRFU would have to pony up.

Leinster's conveyor belt of talent has meant that the succession policy hasn't affected them hugely but the other provinces need it to change.

Online Editors

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