Saturday 21 July 2018

Schmidt: Pick Zebo and more may leave

Irish coach defends controversial decision to omit departing Munster star from squad

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt speaks with Simon Zebo. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt speaks with Simon Zebo. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt has warned that selecting an overseas-based player for Ireland could cause the floodgates to open and see more top-level stars follow Simon Zebo abroad.

While the Ireland coach said there is no official IRFU policy when it comes to the selection of foreign-based players, he said he and the union owe it to the provinces to continue to pick home-based options in order to keep the best talent in Ireland.

Schmidt confirmed that Zebo would move to Racing 92 at the end of this season, a decision that he said he understands.

However, he has opted not to pick the Munster full-back for the November series as a result.

"With Simon it's nothing against anything that he's done, other than that he won't be directly in our line of sight," he said.

"It is a precedent that is always dangerous, should we select from outside of Ireland? Because then if there are three or four other players who have substantially greater offers from somewhere else but are desperately keen to play for their country, then they may perceive that they can do both, and have both, and who loses then?

"I was asked earlier would Simon be in the mix? Of course he would be because he was in the forefront of our thinking.

"He's moved to the periphery, but he's still there, and my conversation with Simon was that, 'You keep playing and keep yourself in the right shape, and there's another squad to be named at the end of January that doesn't necessarily discount you'.

"So the doors are more open than people think but we've got a responsibility to the provinces that we take really seriously, and to the rugby public, to try to keep the people here as best we can...

"If there is another solution, I'd be really keen to hear it."

Schmidt could have another selection dilemma on his hands after lock Iain Henderson revealed he has several offers on the table as he considers his future beyond this season.

Irish Independent

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