Ireland boss Schmidt defends Toner World Cup omission

London (AFP) –


Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has slammed Agustin Pichot's criticism of his decision to select Jean Kleyn instead of Devin Toner in his World Cup squad.

World Rugby vice chairman Pichot urged Toner to ask the sport's governing body "for answers" following his controversial absence 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 on August 10.

Pichot hit out at Ireland selecting a naturalised player over a home-grown talent, while former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll said the decision "beggars belief".

But on Tuesday Schmidt launched a strong defence of his selection for the tournament in Japan, which starts on September 20.

Pichot has also questioned Wales' recent rise to world number one

"Gus Pichot had a big opinion about who should be world number one as well," Schmidt said.

"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.

"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 (Sexton) 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."

New Zealand-born Schmidt has become an Irish citizen in his time coaching first Leinster and now Ireland.

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

Schmidt was defending his naturalised Ireland players in the wake of criticism of Kleyn however, insisting anyone winning Test caps for his side has proved their commitment.

"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," Schmidt said.

"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."