Connacht head coach Andy Friend has hit out at the disrespect shown to his side from Bulls counterpart Jake White. Friend claims White was "ill-informed" with his comments about Connacht players and that it pointed to a wider lack of respect for the province.
Bulls director of rugby spoke before his side's 34-7 United Rugby Championship defeat to Connacht and made the claim that a lot of the opposition players were only playing for the province as they were not good enough for Leinster. White likened it to the situation in South African club rugby.
"A lot of Leinster players who come down from Leinster, obviously the guys that didn't get contracts there, come down here," White told TG4.
"It’s very similar to a couple of franchises we have in South Africa. When they don’t get contracted by the big unions they go down to the small provinces and then obviously find a way in which they can get noticed by the bigger provinces," he added.
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The comments have not gone down well with Friend, who said himself and his players were made aware of the comments after their victory.
"No, it's not isolated and unfortunately people look at Connacht down the end of their nose and don't really pay us too much respect, which we need to change and we're aware of that," Friend told the media.
"I just thought Jake's comments were ill-informed, to be honest with you. Yes, we have Leinster players, as does every team in the country. If you check out Ulster, Munster, they've got Leinster players too because that's where the bulk of the population is in Ireland, it's in Dublin, so you can only fit a certain amount of players into their squad."
The Connacht head coach pointed to the homegrown players who have come through the province's academy system, with a number of them starting the game against the Bulls last weekend.
So there's going to be a transition of players into other squads but we really pride ourselves on our homegrown players, of which we had Dave Heffernan, Jack Carty and Tiernan O'Halloran all starting on the weekend, we had Matt Burke and Caolan Blade coming off the bench.
In the 23 we had three of our own homegrown and then a lot of other players who have come through our academy, so they may have originated in Leinster but they come down to our academy and work really hard with the likes of Eric Elwood and at the moment Mark Sexton and Andrew Browne, but also Colly Tucker and Mossy Lawler, who have been through that programme.
I just thought it was an ill-informed comment. It didn't bode well for him. We're proud of what we're doing here, there's opportunity for people to come down here. But certainly I don't think it should be seen as a B-grade option for players. It's another professional outfit and I suppose by the end of the year we'll be able to tell you where we sit in that pecking order of one to four.
One example of a player playing for Leinster before joining Connachtn is second-row Oisin Dowling - who is one of four St. Michael's players in the squad - and he started Friday night's victory over the Bulls.
That win left Connacht 10th in the United Rugby Championship table on five points from two games, with the Bulls sitting at the foot of the table with zero points after defeats to Leinster and Connacht on successive weekends.
The Irish province also confirmed the signing of Samoan loosehead Tietie Tuimauga who will link up with Friend's squad after the current set of URC fixtures.