Saturday 18 November 2017

Schmidt: We abide by transfer protocol

COACH Joe Schmidt fired both barrels back at Connacht Chief Executive Tom Sears about claims Leinster "have persistently targeted Connacht players in recent years".

The usually affable Schmidt does have a ruthless streak his players infrequently joke about. He showed his mettle yesterday.

"I'm pretty disappointed in the way that misinformation has been passed around," started Schmidt.

"To claim that we persistently pursued Mike McCarthy is just false.

"I know that if you contact the IRFU, they will say we abided by all protocols and those protocols set down are very, very clear. Mike almost came to Leinster two years ago. He was very much on the cusp of doing that. Eric Elwood was a key in keeping him there.

"I think that was pivotal in Mike staying. There is obviously going to be a new coach there next year. There will not be the same certainty with Eric for Mike.

"We have done everything by the book. Mike is certainly not the only Connacht player who has expressed an interest to come to Leinster. I mean that's a natural thing, to a degree, where there is one team that is consistently performing at the top.

"Players as individuals look for opportunity -- opportunities within their current club or elsewhere. It is no different than Nathan Hines going to Clermont. Players make choices like that all the time.

"There is a misconception that we can offer greater bonuses (than Connacht). That is just not true. We cannot offer any more financial incentive than what Connacht set as the base. We can only match the base that they set up.

"There is a lot of misinformation about this particular issue and that is frustrating for us because it puts us in a bad light."

Further, Schmidt took exception at the Connacht claim that Leinster's signing of McCarthy damages Irish rugby as a four-province entity.

"We believe we have helped them build that team by helping them qualify for Heineken Cup," he said.

In a tit-for-tat exchange, Sears was back last night, this time moving the target from Leinster Rugby to the Irish Rugby Football Union.

"We have the utmost respect for Joe Schmidt and what he has achieved at Leinster. Joe is perfectly entitled to his views," said Sears.

"Regarding comments made on the protocols to approach players from another province, we do not believe the protocols are sufficient or serve Irish Rugby well and I know the IRFU have recently discussed reviewing these in the near future."

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