Saturday 16 December 2017

'That is false' - Anthony Foley denies that Joe Schmidt influences Munster team selection

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

The Irish rugby set-up must look strange to outsiders, with the provincial sides, in effect, being owned by the national team.

With a number of high-profile players having their entire salaries paid for by the IRFU through national contracts, it is worth asking whether the club sides are beholden to Joe Schmidt and National Performance Director David Nucifora when it comes to team selection or positional changes.

If Joe Schmidt wants a player picked in a certain position in order to ready him for the international arena, do provincial coaches have to go along with it?

Well Matt O'Connor didn't, refusing to pick Ian Madigan at out-half for much of his two-year tenure, and Munster coach Anthony Foley has also denied that the national coach or Performance Director David Nucifora can dictate who he picks or where he picks them.

"I have a conversation with Joe nearly once or twice a week," Foley said in an interview last night with Off The Ball.

"How players are going and stuff like that. It is an open channel. I'm not sure how it is for the other coaches. In terms of who to select and in what position, that [Schmidt's interference] never happens. That is false."

It was an interesting response from the Munster coach because the majority of fans likely presume that Schmidt CAN influence provincial team selections. After all, the IRFU ultimately fund the club sides so it would be a safe assumption to make but Foley, like O'Connor before him, says it is not the case.

The Munster boss, who has agreed a one season extension with the Thomond Park side, will be hoping he lasts longer than his former provincial counterpart, who you'll remember departed Leinster with a year on his contract after clashing with the IRFU over player availability.

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