'Definitely, 100% they agree but they’re never going to say it. It doesn't sit right with people and that’s a fact'
Ex-Ireland and Leinster back Luke Fitzgerald has elaborated on his position in relation to Joe Schmidt’s controversial selection of Jean Kleyn over Devin Toner in the World Cup squad, claiming that the other players in the squad who have come through the Irish system would share his viewpoint.
Fitzgerald became embroiled in a twitter storm on Monday after a tounge-in-cheek tweet stating, 'Looking like South Africa v South Africa ‘A’ in the World Cup QF...if all goes to plan #brokensystem #theshaftofallshafts', referencing the selection of South African-born Kleyn and CJ Stander in Joe Schmidt’s final squad for Japan.
And when asked by host Will Slattery if other players felt the same on this week’s The Left Wing, Independent.ie’s rugby podcast in association with Aldi, Fitzgerald was adamant that was the case.
"Definitely, 100% they agree with me but they’re never going to say it," Fitzgerlad replied.
"This is their job, would you give up your job? These guys are all going to have to start a career again when they’re 32, 33, 34 and will have to go right down the bottom of the food chain, exactly what I’m doing.
"And you’re expecting them to give up the last couple of years of good earning money where they’re trying to buffer a cushion, to voice their concerns? I guarantee you, because I know these guys, people feel the same way about it in there now. It doesn’t sit right with people and that’s a fact.
"So all these people with all their notions who are supporting their Munsters, their Connachts, their Ulsters, their Leinsters, where these guys are playing, the players don’t feel that way about it.
"Richardt Strauss singing the anthem, that meant nothing to me. That was the best PR stunt of all time, It was really smart, everyone going ‘look at him, he learnt the anthem’. I’d learn the anthem if it was going to make me a quarter of a mill a year. Don't be silly.
"People actually making out that I’m some kind of xenophobe and I’m not providing opportunities to people coming across. That’s utter garbage. We’re not talking about refugees coming over on a boat. This is someone coming over for a job that is paying between €150k and €300k a year."
Fitzgerald can certainly relate to how Toner will be feeling at the moment, with the 2015 World Cup squad member missing out on a place in the starting team after New Zealand-born Jared Payne qualified the year before and was selected in his position. It’s still his belief that his replacement wasn’t enough of an upgrade to justify bringing in a ‘project player’ in his place and he feels the same logic applies to the current situation.
"I didn't think there was a big enough difference between myself and the player ahead of me. I feel the same way about that as I do about Devin and Ultan Dillane," he explained.
"Based on a rugby decision, I don't think Joe should be picking Jean Kleyn anyway. He’s picking someone who’s played two games for Ireland, regardless of how long he’s become available. A poor performance against Italy, not by him personally but by the team and our worst ever defeat to England.
"On what basis are you then not picking Devin, particularly when you saw how badly our lineout performed against England? Joe Schmidt will get savaged for this if the lineout doesn’t perform. He’s got two able lieutenants there but my worry is that they’re not as experienced or as good as Dev at calling the lineout at this stage.
"We’re talking about Donnacha Ryan being excluded from the team. Simon Zebo, Ian Madigan. It doesn’t sit right with me that we’re excluding these people trying to protect the game in Ireland. What we’re doing with the internal stuff is almost the opposite of what we’re doing with our foreign players. We’re trying to take advantage of this stuff in the internal game but people who are playing externally are excluded. It feels like there’s a bit of hypocrisy there."