Luke Fitzgerald Blasts Ireland’s Recruitment Of Foreign Players
Connacht revealed yesterday that Bundee Aki had signed a new deal with the province that will take him up until the summer of 2020.
The New Zealand born centre will become eligible for Ireland in October 2017 and will no doubt get the call-up from Joe Schmidt. Aki looks set to be the latest in a host of players that have taken advantage of the rule in recent years such as CJ Stander and Jared Payne.
World Rugby is currently reviewing the rule and one former player who doesn’t agree with it is former Leinster and Ireland winger, Luke Fitzgerald.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Fitzgerald said he had nothing against individuals such as Aki, Payne and Stander but that he would prefer Irish-born players to be pulling on the green jersey.
I know that’s controversial, but… and it’s no reflection on those guys, they’re doing everything within the rules, I’d like to see Irish guys in there. Are we not good enough to fill the spots? I don’t know if there’s a big enough gap between Irish guys and those guys to really justify it?
Garry [Ringrose] looks an awesome player to me, Robbie [Henshaw] is a brilliant player, Stuart Olding, Luke Marshall, Johnny Sexton’s still our best player – he’s an Irish guy. Seán O’Brien – they’re all Irish, Cian Healy, Jack McGrath – loads of great players.
I don’t know if being born in a different part of the world makes you a better player. I think they’re probably better than us, but if they’re not making those international teams, why would we be taking them? Is that an admission we’re not as good as them, I’m sure it is.
During last year’s World Cup, Fitzgerald was battling for a place in the Ireland team with Jared Payne. The New Zealander was preferred by Joe Schmidt and it annoyed him.
Fitzgerald feels that he can certainly sympathise with the likes of Irish born duo of Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose, who will be battling against the likes of Aki and Payne for a spot in the Ireland team in the not too distant future.
Would it affect me if there was a guy from another place getting picked ahead of me? I’ve been in that spot, and it does – it pisses you off, definitely.
You’ve come all the way up through the internationals, you’ve done all the work through the system, and then all of a sudden some guy comes in and is perceived to be ‘better’ because he’s from a different place, and it’s ‘let’s get this guy in’. I think it’s really disappointing.
Does Fitzgerald have a point? Is it wrong that players who aren’t born in Ireland are keeping homegrown players from representing their country?