Monday 19 February 2018

Joe Schmidt hits back at claims of 'exodus' of Irish players to England and France

Rory Best, captain of Ireland and head coach Joe Schmidt pose with the trophy during the RBS Six Nations launch at The Hurlingham Club in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Rory Best, captain of Ireland and head coach Joe Schmidt pose with the trophy during the RBS Six Nations launch at The Hurlingham Club in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) Newsdesk Newsdesk

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has refuted claims that there is an exodus of Irish talent to the Aviva Premiership and the French Top 14.

This week, it was revealed that Leinster prop Marty Moore would join Wasps on a three-year deal and reports emerged that Munster winger Keith Earls was close to signing a similar deal with current English champions Saracens.

With JJ Hanrahan having quit Munster for Northampton last season and Ian Madigan joining Bordeaux-Begles next season, many commentators have expressed concerns over the loss of Irish talent overseas but Schmidt played the situation.

""Look there's only Ian Madigan in the squad who has signed abroad, I've seen the word exodus used a number of times and having read the book by Leon Uris - a long with a number of other Leon Uris titles - it defies the dictionary definition of exodus," he said during the launch of the RBS Six Nations in London.

"But I would say it is a concern because we lose the opportunity to manage that player with the regulation nine windows, we don't have the same access to that player.

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"And it's just a little bit more difficult to monitor that player. We can get the training volume from around the provinces, we know what their S & C programme is, what their total training time minutes are, so we know the volume of what they're doing away from the pitch.

"We can measure the match time the players have had.

"Obviously the only experience that I've had with it was with Johnny Sexton and he came into his first camp having played 12 games in 11 weeks, is that the best preparation to be fully fit to play an international?

"That's the risk for us. So I'd hope that some of the rumours aren't as well-founded as people believe, but that's again external at he moment because once we're actually in camp it's about what we can try to get done.

"We didn't get to camp until Monday afternoon really  and we've had one training yesterday morning, which was wind affected to say the least, so we feel already we're a little bit behind time and have a bit of catching up to do and the last thing we want to be distracted by is those extraneous things that don't immediately affect how we can deliver next Sunday."

Asked if Madigan move to the French Top 14 would adversely affect his chances with Ireland, Schmidt added: "You understand why that's happened, and Ian and I had a long discussion about it and the thing for me when I arrived in Leinster, Ian was learning French so there was a little bit of an uneasy feeling at that stage.

"But that's because he's one of the most professional preparers for whatever is coming next, and I think that was one of the things in the World Cup, I thought he did an unbelievable job against France and Argentina.

"Even though people analysed, assessed his performance against Argentina as having some flaws in it, that's going to happen for everyone.

"He came into that game on the back of about a 20 minute Captain's Run to lead that team around the pitch and having played about half a dozen games at 10 in the previous 12 months.

"I know that's where Ian wants to be and with Pierre Bernard moving out of Bordeaux-Begles, and Lionel Beauxis being there, I think he'll deal with Beauxis and fair play to him if he gets the better of that.

"He won't be out of our thoughts but probably this time two years ago Paddy Jackson came off the bench in the first four 6 Nations matches, we had a number of injuries leading into the last match and Ian came in on the bench because he covered so many different positions.

"But it probably allows Paddy Jackson, who has been playing very well, and Ian Keatley last year started the first game against Italy and after the first 20 minutes he really grew into the game and controlled it really well, so there is competition for Ian and there's always a risk in him going away.

"We can't be any more transparent than that, really."

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