Sport Rugby

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Smith hits out at Kidney's treatment of O'Leary

Tomas O'Leary has retired from rugby
Tomas O'Leary has retired from rugby

LONDON IRISH director of rugby Brian Smith has blasted Declan Kidney and the Ireland management team for their treatment of Tomas O'Leary.

O'Leary was surprisingly left out of the squad for last year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Kidney opted for Eoin Reddan, Isaac Boss and Conor Murray. O'Leary appeared to pay the price for a below-par performance in the defeat to France just before the tournament.

The 28-year-old was heavily criticised for giving away a soft try by throwing an intercept pass to Francois Trinh-Duc, which helped the French to a 26-22 win. Yet, Smith believes O'Leary was treated unfairly.

Smith said: "Tomas O'Leary was hung out to dry. He was a starting player for Ireland and they came under a bit of pressure in the warm-up games for the World Cup.

"He threw an intercept pass in a game that didn't go well for Ireland and he was hung out to dry. O'Leary has never stopped being a brilliant player.

"He was hung out to dry and the fact that he was a bit of a scapegoat is something that he can't control. In my opinion, looking at it as a neutral observer, I felt that Tomas probably got a pretty bad deal."

O'Leary was restricted to nine starts for Munster last season, with Conor Murray preferred at scrum-half.

He was omitted from this year's Six Nations squad, but was called in as a replacement for two games for the injured Murray.

O'Leary has committed to London Irish for three seasons.

"Tomas has got a wonderful opportunity here," added Smith. He's come over here with his fiancee and it's an opportunity for him to maybe smell the roses and live a different life with the things that are on offer from the London type of lifestyle.

"But he understands that there's big responsibility in coming here in terms of delivering. I've coached against him at international level. I know that he's a quality player and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he forces his way back into the international set-up.

"With the change of scene and the change of environment, we're certainly looking to bring out the best in Tomas and we recognise as coaches that that's our responsibility."

Irish Independent

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