Joe Schmidt dismisses Agustin Pichot’s criticism of World Cup squad selection

Ireland boss issues stinging rebuke to World Rugby chief.

By Press Association Published: 3 September 2019 - 3.18pm
Rugby Union


Joe Schmidt has offered a withering dismissal of Agustin Pichot’s criticism of Ireland selecting Jean Kleyn ahead of Devin Toner.

World Rugby vice chairman Pichot claimed Toner should be asking the game’s governing body – and his own organisation – “for answers” after his omission from Ireland’s 31-man World Cup squad on Monday.

South Africa-born Kleyn only qualified for Ireland on residency two days before his Test debut, in the 29-10 victory over Italy in Dublin on August 10.

Bill Beaumont Press Conference – The Westbury Hotel
Agustin Pichot, pictured, has come in for criticism from Ireland boss Joe Schmidt (Brian Lawless/PA)

Pichot hit out at Ireland selecting a naturalised player over a home grown talent, but Schmidt has now snapped back to swipe that critique aside.

Referencing Pichot questioning Wales’ recent rise to world number one, Schmidt said: “Gus Pichot had a big opinion about who should be world number one as well.

“I think he has a number of big opinions, but they’re not ones that are relevant for us and, talking to Gats (Warren Gatland) last week, they weren’t relevant to him either.

“What is relevant is that under the laws of the game, as they were, we are entitled to pick guys who have qualified.

“Considering he is involved in World Rugby, he could have a look at what the rules were and not have so many things to say because for us it is tough enough to do our job and tough enough for me to have a conversation as I did with Dev (Devin Toner).

“With Ireland the qualification involvement is I don’t know probably six or seven per cent. The rest are home grown guys who are not only home grown but who are domiciled here apart from two years when Johnny was used from Paris.

“If there was any question about the number of Irish people involved then I would be surprised when you match up those numbers.”

The former New Zealand schoolteacher has become an Irish citizen in his time coaching first Leinster and now Ireland.

The 53-year-old will return home after the World Cup, stepping down after six years at the Irish helm.

Leinster v Munster – Guinness Pro14 – Semi Final – RDS Arena
Devin Toner, pictured, has been overlooked for World Cup selection by Ireland (Donall Farmer/PA)

Schmidt was moved to defend his naturalised Ireland players in the wake of criticism of Kleyn however, insisting anyone winning Test caps for his side has proved their commitment to both cause and country.

“I’m not sure I’m the most qualified to comment as I am a blow-in myself and I’ll be blowing out soon enough so Gus Pichot has changed the rules and those rules will apply beyond this World Cup and they will apply as long as people feel that is the right residency rule,” said Schmidt.

“I would question how much CJ Stander has committed to his local environment, what Bundee Aki has done for his local environment, that they are domiciled here in Ireland and have been for a number of years.

“They have contributed to their community and I’m not sure how long you have to contribute to a community and work hard in that community before you can be accepted by those people.

“I was put under a lot of pressure when Bundee played his first game. A lot of people wrote things but by the end of that first season he had played for Ireland he was named as Supporters’ Player of the Year.

“Now, I think that the majority – and maybe it is a silent majority – will fully get behind this squad and be fully supportive in the hope that we can do as well as we can in Japan.”