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Matt O'Connor Is Really Not Happy With The IRFU

Matt O'Connor Is Really Not Happy With The IRFU
By Conor O'Leary

In case you didn't realise, Matt O'Connor isn't a fan of the IRFU player welfare. Despite naming a strong team to play Glasgow tonight that features ten Irish internationals (of which seven are Six Nations winners), three big imports, and one of the most promising young forwards in the country - Matt O'Connor is annoyed that he can't play his big names against a top 4 contender.

Leinster face a Pro 12 contender tonight at the RDS in Glasgow, as the top five teams try to fit into the top four. Normally a match of this magnitude would warrant Leinster's top players, but the IRFU player welfare management system decrees that none of the starting XV from the Six Nations last weekend can start this week.

This means that the likes of Jamie Heaslip, Devin Toner, Sean O'Brien and Rob Kearney have been held back altogether for the Bath quarterfinal, while Cian Healy and Luke Fitzgerald can get more game time from the bench.

Unlike Leinster, Glasgow have been able to name a side filled with the Scottish internationals that lost in that game against Ireland last Saturday. Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Mark Bennett and Alastair Kellock make up a formidable looking team for the league leaders.

In his press conference, the irritation that Matt O'Connor had with the restrictions placed upon the provinces. He hinted that he wanted to pair Luke Fitzgerald with Ian Madigan in the centres ahead of the Champions Cup quarter final next week but was restricted by the IRFU.

When asked whether there was a conversation about loosening the arrangement, he said:

There was a conversation, how two-way it was is debatable.

It isn't the first time that O'Connor has expressed his frustration at the system, and suggests that things should change:

Given the dynamic that we have in the Pro12 now with meritocracy and the windows tighter and all the dynamics that go with it, the management system needs to be restructured.

While he thinks that with the added importance the Pro 12 has, that the welfare system devalues the competition


It hurts the league. There's a lot of games in the Pro12 that are impacted on by the lack of availability from Test players.

And O'Connor revealed that it's not just the player welfare system that frustrates him.

The financial implications are the biggest issue and that is where we need to get a little bit of clarity. There is a player welfare issue and then there is what is the league going to be worth.

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