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'We're incredibly keen to support the provinces': Schmidt explains overseas selection policy

The issue has come into sharp focus this week following the omission of Ian Madigan.

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt has moved to clarify the IRFU’s overseas player selection policy by insisting the likes of Ian Madigan are still on the radar, but limited availability reduces their chances of being picked.

pjimage (1) Ian Madigan and Marty Moore. Source: Inpho/PA

Schmidt also reiterated that the union are ‘incredibly keen to support the provinces’ and selecting foreign-based players over those plying their trade at home would undermine the IRFU’s contract system.

The issue has come into sharp focus this week following the omission of Madigan from Ireland’s Six Nations squad and the decision to call Ian Keatley into the panel after Johnny Sexton was ruled out of Saturday’s game against Scotland.

Madigan has fallen down the international pecking order since his move to Bordeaux Begles last year and despite being drafted in for the summer tour of South Africa, he knew his international career would be put on hold with a switch to France.

Schmidt described the situation as a ‘real frustration’ because even if he was to select Madigan, the out-half’s availability wouldn’t be under IRFU jurisdiction and he would return to his club in-between Six Nations fixtures.

When asked about the inclusion of Keatley, who has seen limited game time at 10 for Munster having been understudy to Tyler Bleyendaal this season, in the matchday 23 for Saturday’s game at Murrayfield, Schmidt said the policy on selecting overseas players hasn’t changed.

“No it hasn’t [changed]. Ian Keatley’s time at out-half is not too much different to Ian Madigan’s,” he said this afternoon at Carton House.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt speaking at today's team announcement. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“Ian had an injury and was out for about four weeks. He’s been mixing up starts and coming off the bench like he did two weeks ago against Ulster. Ian couldn’t train with us last week.

“We only trained on the Tuesday and then the Thursday and Friday. Thursday, Friday, he was preparing to come off the bench for Bordeaux against Clermont. I mentioned those training windows earlier on. I think the other thing is we’re incredibly keen to support the provinces.

“If we demonstrate to players that we’re happy to pick players outside of Ireland then potentially one of the big draw cards for keeping them here will be lifted and players will more likely go overseas.

“I think one of the big things that keeps them here is the player management and they know they are closer to the front of the queue in the competition to play for their national team.”

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Schmidt added that the likes of Madigan and Wasps prop Marty Moore are still very much available to him if required but, again, it comes down to player management.

“They haven’t gone away,” he said. “I’ve had some good conversations with Ian lately, it’s not like he’s disappeared off the radar.

Ian Keatley Keatley is on the bench as cover for Paddy Jackson for Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We know we can whistle him in but we also know that during the Six Nations period that we’ll play two matches and he’ll have to go back. We play one match and he’d have to go back and then we’d get to play the last two matches. It’s not like you get a continuity of work space with the actual player so that’s a real frustration for us.

“It’s the same with Marty. At the same time, Marty was probably ahead of Tadhg [Furlong] in the Leinster hierarchy of tightheads when he left and Tadhg has come through. John Ryan is working his way through, Finlay Bealham has played a lot including coming off the bench against the All Blacks so it has probably allowed an opportunity for other people.

“This time last year nobody was talking about Joey Carbery and unfortunately Joey has picked up an injury but at the same time he launched himself into the limelight and I very much doubt that would have happened if Ian Madigan was actually there.

“I think there’s flip sides either way and it’s not an ideal situation not to have every player who’s Irish-qualified on the island and immediately available. The ones that are overseas are available but fluctuating availability and that’s a little bit frustrating in the preparation you’re trying to have.”

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