Stephen Ferris joined us on The Racket this afternoon to preview Ireland and France in the Six Nations. You can listen below:
During the course of the interview, Ferris criticised the lack of Ulster representation among the 23 men that make up the Irish squad this weekend, especially amongst the backs:
Don't talk to me about this [the scant Ulster representation]. There are 14 Leinster lads in the 23 man squad, while lads like Stuart McCloskey - who has probably been the best centre in European rugby in the last four or five months - yet the big man can't make the bench. I just can't get my head round it.
I know that I probably have my Ulster hat on most of the time but for me the selection of Fergus McFadden and to be honest Ian Madigan as well, without Stuart McCloskey and Paddy Jackson on the bench has irritated me a bit.
Ulster have been performing the best out of all the provinces this year, yet there are only three men in the squad. It's a bit of a strange one.
One has to think that Ferris has a point here. McFadden parachuting directly back into the Ireland 23 from being outside the squad feels like blatant Leinster bias while Paddy Jackson's form has him truly deserving of a place on the Ireland bench.
For those of an Ulster persuasion to get hot about pic.twitter.com/L6XPNZKwaB
— Whiff of Cordite (@WhiffofCordite) February 11, 2016
When asked whether he felt that the same provincial favouritism marked his playing days, Ferris had this to say:
I'm not sure , it was a little bit different. Declan Kidney liked to have his Munster men in there, and I suppose it's about who you trust. Joe has obviously worked with the Leinster lads for a long time, and knows he can trust them, and when it comes to crunch time he knows they will stand up and be counted.
I never really felt it because I was being picked, if you know what I mean. But I do feel for Paddy Jackson and Stuart McCloskey. I really do feel they are in with a shout of getting another cap for Ireland. Under Joe, he seems to be going with the Leinster lads, but what can you do but keep on going?
Ferris also accentuated the absence of Craig Gilroy, comparing him favourably to Keith Earls under the high ball and Ferris believes that Gilroy is more threatening in attack. It is a selection policy that baffles Ferris, and he would like an explanation:
To be honest, I'd love to meet Joe face to face and ask him the question: Why are guys like Paddy Jackson and Craig Gilroy not involve? And for him to give me an answer.
Sadly we are unlikely to see that showdown, but Schmidt will attempt to give his best answer at the Stade de France tomorrow afternoon.
You can listen to the entire interview on the podcast below.