Sport Rugby

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Leinster success has helped Connacht – Schmidt

Conor George

Conor George

JOE SCHMIDT has challenged Connacht to cultivate an environment where players don't believe they have to leave the province to better their careers.

Mike McCarthy's decision to join Leinster at the end of the season has sparked heated discourse from Connacht, with their CEO Tom Sears crying foul over what he claims is Leinster's "persistent targeting" of Connacht's players.

Schmidt, who rejected any suggestion Leinster acted inappropriately, has fired back with the claim that the onus is on Connacht to hold onto their players.

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

"It's no different than for us when we start contract negotiations with our contracted players and they are offered twice as much money than we're offering from a French club or some other clubs.

"Japanese clubs are offering a lot of money to players. We have to ensure that our environment is as positive as possible so those people choose to stay. This decision of Mike's is not a financial decision."

Schmidt, who also revealed he has had only one conversion with McCarthy in recent weeks, expressed his disappointment at Connacht's accusations.

"I'm massively disappointed because we have done everything by the book," the Leinster coach said. "I had a brief conversation with (McCarthy) when he decided he was interested in coming and expressed to him how delighted I was."

Schmidt also claimed that Connacht are actually benefiting from Leinster's continued excellence.

"I think the high level we have performed at over the last two years has helped Connacht a lot.

"There is a lot of disappointment that while you are trying to build a team, players choose to move on.

"But we believe that we helped them build that team. We've helped them qualify for the Heineken Cup. I have the utmost respect for Connacht in the way they have acquitted themselves in the Heineken Cup. They had a fantastic win last year over Harlequins and now the win last weekend against Biarritz."

Schmidt drew comparison to Leinster losing Nathan Hines to Clermont, despite their desire to keep the Australian-born Scotland international.

"Mike leaving Connacht is no different to Nathan Hines joining Clermont. We weren't particularly happy to see him leave.

"Players make choices all the time and it's not right to say we deliberately choose Connacht players. As individuals, players look for opportunities, wherever they may be.

"How do you keep players in your environment? It's not financial. We can only match the base financially that Connacht set."

Irish Independent

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