Joe Schmidt hasn't ruled out using Ian Madigan and Marty Moore further down the line but the Ireland coach has warned that their exile status will continue to shunt them down the queue for green shirts, writes Brendan O'Brien.
Munster’s Ian Keatley has been named on the bench as cover for Paddy Jackson, who himself steps into the breach for an injured Jonathan Sexton, for Saturday’s RBS Six Nations opener against Scotland in Edinburgh.
Keatley’s lack of game time at ten with Munster has been highlighted as a potential concern but, while Schmidt pointed out that Madigan’s minutes with Bordeaux-Begles haven’t been much different, it is clearly his station in France that stands against him most.
“The other thing is we are incredibly keen to support the province,” said Schmidt on Thursday afternoon after naming his squad.
“If we demonstrate to players that we are happy to pick players from outside of Ireland then potentially one of the big draw cards for keeping them here will be lifted and players will more likely go overseas.
“One of the things that keeps them here is the player management and another thing is that they know they are going to be closer to the front of the queue in the competition to play for their national team.”
It’s a fair point and yet there surely comes another when a point of principle is superseded by a needs-must policy. Madigan has 30 international caps in comparison with Keatley’s four.
Marty Moore, currently with Wasps, has ten compared to John Ryan’s one yet it is the Munsterman who will understudy for Tadhg Furlong at tighthead.
“They haven’t gone away,” said Schmidt. “I’ve had some good conversations with Ian in recent weeks and we can whistle them in but we also know that during the Six Nations period we would have to play two matches.
“Then he would have to go back and then we get to play the last two matches so it’s not like you get a continuity of work space with the actual player so that is a real frustration for us and it’s the same with Marty.”
Schmidt has also played down concerns that Sexton’s latest injury, a calf issue that has followed on from hamstring issues, is of any concern on a long-term basis.
“Not really. I don’t think there’s many players that don’t go through a period of injury and a little bit of bad luck. It was a very minor injury going into that Castres match for Johnny and it probably just triggered an extension of that injury so for us it is about getting him one hundred per cent before he goes out there.”