Saturday 21 September 2019

Cormac Byrne: 'The All Black criticism of Ireland's poaching of players is not unwarranted but it's a bit rich'

New Zealand attack coach Ian Foster
New Zealand attack coach Ian Foster

Cormac Byrne

Scrutiny of the IRFU's selection policy is completely valid but criticism from the New Zealand press and coaching staff smacks of hypocrisy.

Ireland's use of project players has been well catalogued and has come under the microscope regularly as stars who were not born on this island pulled on the green jersey and went into battle.

Luke Fitzgerald is among many who have voiced their displeasure at a rule that may rob Irish-born players of the chance of representing their country.

In response to the outcry of many observers, World Rugby extended the residency qualification period for international players from three to five years.

The Kiwi media availed of the opportunity afforded by this weekend's clash at the Aviva to take aim at the IRFU.

The New Zealand Herald called the IRFU's search for a successor to Brian O'Driscoll that led to Jared Payne and Bundee Aki swapping hemispheres as a 'rather cold, calculating and ethically questionable recruitment policy'.

Gregor Paul claimed that this type of recruitment was not in the spirit of the game.

"No one can believe surely that recruitment of this sort doesn't in some small way damage the integrity of test rugby? But of course rugby's code of omerta ensures that the subject is glossed over."

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All Black coach Ian Foster aimed his own dig at Aki yesterday. He seems to run the New Zealand attack on and off the pitch. His choice of words were very disappointing, in my opinion.

"He had a few years in the Chiefs, played really, really well. But he's been over here a while now," Foster said. "I mean you have moulded him into an Irish man. He looks like an Irish man now doesn't he?

"There will be a couple of our guys who have probably played with him and know him personally but we are kind of getting used to that."

What the criticism glosses over is the fact that New Zealand have also benefited greatly from the eligibility rules.

Olo Brown, Jerome Kaino, Mils Muliaina and Joe Rokocoko are All Black greats that were born outside of New Zealand.

Current stars like Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Vaea Fifita, Nepo Laulala and Waisake Naholo are the same.

Around 40 Pacific Island-born players have donned the famous black kit, were their motivations for moving all that dissimilar to Aki's?

The IRFU's targeted recruitment is worthy of constructive condemnation but it is within the rules that govern the game.

There are legitimate concerns over World Rugby's eligibility rules but the All Blacks seem to be running with the hare and chasing with the hound.

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