Schmidt brushes aside claims of Leinster bias
March 19, 2014
Joe Schmidt - © PA Photos
Barely have the hangovers begun to wear off from a weekend of celebration for Irish rugby than Joe Schmidt, Ireland's coach, has had to react to claims he leans too heavily on players from Leinster.
With only three Munster players featuring regularly, Schmidt, who was Leinster coach before taking on the national side, could have faced even tougher criticism had Ireland not won the Six Nations.
But at the post-Six Nations press conference in Dublin, Schmidt was uncompromising. "For me, I select Irish players," he said. "If people want to differentiate, if people want to divide it provincially, that's their prerogative. But, as a group, we're just trying to select the Irish national team."
"If people are going to be distracted by provincial loyalties, that's certainly not happening within the group. There has been a super unity in the group. It's always disappointing to get criticised. I can totally understand the perception."
As attention turns to next year's Rugby World Cup, Schmidt said the overarching priority was the Six Nations. "That's the one we've got to be repeatedly good at. The World Cup is once every four years and it's got to be kept in mind because it's the peak.
"But, those five Six Nations Tests - the amount of pressure that exists in those Tests - it's hard to go outside the players who are comfortable and in-form and keep continuity.
"It's played over seven weeks. That was one of the things I miscalculated. I knew how to count weeks but I thought that we'd be able to give a little more opportunity without losing continuity."
That view was backed by Rob Kearney. "The coaches have a big job. They have to win each game. If you lose it's not a valid excuse to say, 'It's okay, we're building for a World Cup'."
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