Sunday 27 May 2018

'I think he is an odd selector' - Luke Fitzgerald surprised by some of Joe Schmidt's 'weird' team selections

11 November 2017; Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt prior to the Guinness Series International match between Ireland and South Africa at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
11 November 2017; Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt prior to the Guinness Series International match between Ireland and South Africa at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Luke Fitzgerald has questioned why Sean Cronin wasn't picked in Ireland's November squad, calling Joe Schmidt's decision to omit the Leinster hooker 'bizarre'.

Many were surprised that Cronin was overlooked in favour of his provincial team-mate James Tracy and Ulster's Rob Herring, with captain Rory Best still firmly entrenched as Ireland's starting number two.

Speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast, Fitzgerald hailed Schmidt as a master tactician, but admitted that he is sometimes baffled by his team selections.

With Schmidt expected to step away from Ireland when his contract ends after the 2019 World Cup, Fitzgerald also thinks that the IRFU need to ensure that the best talent stays at the provinces to ensure the national team remains strong.

"Joe Schmidt is an exceptional coach, there is no doubt about that, but after 2019 he is probably going to go," Fitzgerald said.

"This isn't a personal thing, it really isn't, but I don't always agree with his selections. I think he is an odd selector, but he gets away with it because he is such a good coach and it is easy to bed into his systems once you figure out what he wants from you.

"I think him leaving creates a vacuum. We can get away with the provinces not doing well because he is so good. But if he goes, I don't know if we will have another coach who will be able to do that, so in that case you need your provinces to be really strong. And if I was planning for the future that is what I would be focusing on."

Fitzgerald then singled out the case of Cronin as one of Schmidt's decisions which he cannot understand.

"I was amazed that Rob Herring and Rory Best were shoe-ins in the squad by all accounts," he added.

"If you look at the Leinster game up there. Sean Cronin - did anyone else think that [his omission] was crazy? The talk was that he had come into form too late. But if you are in form close to the competition, you are in form, in the best of the Irish provinces and I thought he was outstanding. Weird; that's what I go back to. Joe can still get results with weird selections. That was a bizarre bit of selecting."

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