Rugby

Bernard Jackman Defends IRFU's Policy On Not Selecting Foreign Based Players

Bernard Jackman Defends IRFU's Policy On Not Selecting Foreign Based Players

In the wake of the news that Simon Zebo will be departing Munster for Racing 92 at the end of the season, the policy that the IRFU have in place - that no player playing outside of Ireland that isn't Johnny Sexton can be picked for the national team - came in for heavy criticism.

As news emerged this week that Peter O'Mahony had rejected an offer from the IRFU and would explore his options in France and England, criticism is once again being levelled at the decision to neglect some of our best players because they do not ply their trade on this island.

We saw the likes of Eddie O'Sullivan state his belief that exceptions should be made for our most important players, but Simon Zebo was excluded from the Autumn international series regardless and there are fears that another important player in Peter O'Mahony may soon be frozen out of the picture.

While most fans are frustrated at the thought of very helpful players being overlooked for playing outside of Ireland, Dragons coach and former Leinster hooker Bernard Jackman believes that it is in the best interests of the Irish game.

Speaking on RTE 2FM's Game On on Thursday, Jackman offered a defence of the policy as he believes it is one of the good things about rugby in Ireland.

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I know the agents and the players will look to play on the fact that Simon has left and try and create that uncertainty, but I do think Irish players tend to stay.

They'll always stay for less money, or more often than not they'll stay for less money, particularly given the fact that Joe won't pick anyone who does leave.

I think he's right. It keeps the Irish game internationally strong. It keeps the provincial game very strong. It's the only way we can compete. If we don't have the lure of international rugby a lot more players will be playing in the Aviva Premiership or the Top 14.

Our kids and rugby fans in Ireland will only be able to see the best players in international games.

The beauty of the Irish game at the moment is if you want to go and watch Johnny Sexton or Peter O'Mahony you can go and watch them playing for their province. That's a really strong aspect of the Irish game.

We're never going to be able to compete with the money on offer.

There is no question that it helps keep our biggest players at their provinces, but if Ireland want to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup, can we really afford to leave the likes of Peter O'Mahony - who captained the Lions in their first test against New Zealand last summer - back home?

Hopefully that isn't in question as there is still time for the IRFU to reach an agreement with O'Mahony, but with several contracts for big players expiring in the next year, there are a number of players who will be forced to weigh up their options, and may decide against staying for the World Cup if a potentially life-changing offer such as Zebo's is on the table.

[via RTE.ie]

Mikey Traynor

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