Ireland’s Joe Schmidt fires back at World Rugby boss who questioned his RWC selection of South African-born lock

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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has returned fire at Augustine Pichot after the World Rugby vice-chairman made comments over his Rugby World Cup axing of veteran lock Devin Toner.

Schmidt wasn’t afraid to challenge Pichot on his comments when he spoke to media after naming his squad yesterday.

“Considering he [Pichot] 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.”

Schmidt controversially selected South African-born second rower Jean Kleyn yesterday ahead of 67-Test veteran Toner, despite Kleyn only qualifying for selection for Ireland last month. He made his Test debut two days later on August 10.

The decisions led Pichot to tweet his support for Toner.

“If I was Devin Toner … I will be asking WR for answers. I feel sorry for him; nothing against for who was properly selected for the RWC19 by the way. But feel that way,” Pichot tweeted.

Sam Whitelock and Irish lock Devin Toner wrestle for the ball in a maul. Source: Photosport

It was Pichot’s second piece of criticism already this week after he questioned the World Rugby ranking systems which had allowed Wales to pass the All Blacks for a week at the top.

Schmidt said it was all just noise.

“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.”

Schmidt furthered the defence of his selections by pointing out he only had three players in his 31-man squad picked under residential qualifications – Kleyn, fellow South African CJ Stander and NZ-Samoan midfielder Bundee Aki.

“With Ireland the qualification involvement is, I don’t know, probably six or seven per cent. The rest are homegrown guys who are not only home grown but who are domiciled here, apart from two years when Johnny [Sexton] was used from Paris,” Schmidt, who retires after the World Cup, said.

“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.”