Joe Schmidt: Massive misnomer I influence provincial selection

Ireland head coach denies interference amid row over Brian O'Driscoll's replacement in Ireland team

Joe Schmidt has denied influencing provincial selections after centres Darren Cave and Eoin Griffin were omitted from the 37-man Ireland squad to face Australia, Georgia, and South Africa in November.

The Ireland head coach has yet to find a permanent replacement for the outside centre position vacated by Brian O’Driscoll following his retirement at the end of their Six Nations-winning campaign earlier this year.

It’s frustrating, because selection is a tough enough job without the impression we’re influencing things

Joe Schmidt

But Schmidt has insisted he has not ordered provincial coaches to select players in certain positions.

Connacht centre Henshaw and Ulster’s former New Zealand Under-21 international Payne, who now qualifies for Ireland after completing his three-year residency, are set to compete to fill O’Driscoll’s shoes in the Ireland midfield.

“We’ve probably gone with Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne,” he said. “They are the two guys who are playing 13.

“I think there has been a massive misnomer that I influence provincial selection. That is absolutely untrue.

“They are the provincial coaches, they are looking to do their best for the province and that’s the way it should be.

“Jared has good variety in his kicking game, and his ability to read defensively at tackle time is good. He can carry and slip tackles, or at least win the gainline, and I think you could just about say ditto for Robbie.

“He’s also got a very good kicking game. His passing game I think is a super aspect to his game, Robbie, he’s got a very good width and a really flat, wide pass, and the ability to make the subtle passes as well.”

The former Leinster head coach also took umbrage at accusations that he blocked Cave’s selection and was responsible for 24-year-old former Connacht centre Griffin moving to London Irish in a bid to improve his chances of making the national team.

“The guys that are selected in the centre, or to carry water, are nothing to do with my selections,” he added. “For someone to imply that Darren Cave has been blocked is wrong – he’s very much on our radar.

“Darren had a shoulder operation; he’s come back from injury, then had a rib injury, but he’s still a guy that’s still in our thinking for 13.”

“To say that Eoin Griffin may have left because he saw the writing on the wall is massively disappointing. He is still on our radar, we keep an eye on what’s happening at London Irish.

“It’s frustrating, because selection is a tough enough job without the impression we’re influencing things. We have a very hands-off approach – we try not to interfere.

“We have a lot of faith in what they are delivering, and we benefit from the product of their efforts.”

Another player to miss out on the Ireland squad was Ulster outside-half Paddy Jackson, and Schmidt was forced to defend his decision after Munster’s Ian Keatley and Leinster’s Ian Madigan were selected as back-ups for Racing Metro’s Johnny Sexton.

“Paddy’s only played one full game this season,” Schmidt said. “He needs to be playing at the moment – he doesn’t need to be training with us.

“He’s obviously disappointed, but he’s a tough young man. We’ve got a lot of respect for Paddy.

“Ian Keatley did very, very well on the summer’s Emerging Ireland tour. The feedback was that he led by example, both on and off the field.

“This camp gives us a little bit of an opportunity to work with him and help him to develop him as a player.”

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