Joe Schmidt: Ireland coach denies influencing provincial selection

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt
Schmidt has named a 37-man squad for Ireland's three Tests in November

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has rubbished suggestions that he has influenced team selection in the Irish provinces.

He also denied blocking centre Darren Cave's path back to the Ireland squad.

Schmidt has confirmed Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne will fight it out for Ireland's number 13 shirt following the retirement of Brian O'Driscoll.

On Tuesday, Schmidt announced a 37-man squad for the November internationals against South Africa, Georgia and Australia at Dublin's Aviva Stadium.

Henshaw of Connacht and Ulster's New Zealand Under-21 cap Payne were named in the panel but Cave was overlooked.

Ulster man Cave last year claimed his "face did not fit" with the Ireland set-up, while another centre, Eoin Griffin, left Connacht for London Irish in the summer.

Ireland's autumn internationals
OppositionDate
All fixtures at Aviva Stadium, Dublin
South AfricaSaturday, 8 November
GeorgiaSunday, 16 November
AustraliaSaturday, 22 November

Schmidt insisted he was monitoring the progress of both centres, but criticised the "massive misnomer" that he orders provincial coaches to select players in positions of his choosing.

"Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne are the two guys who are competing for 13 through camp and then into the South Africa game," said Schmidt.

"But that does not preclude other guys - we are trying to keep a pretty open mind.

"Darren Cave has come back from a shoulder injury and then he had a rib injury. He has not had a lot of continuity and we are keen to continue working with him.

"I think there has been a massive misnomer that I influence provincial selection.

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Schmidt on Ireland's centre options

"That is absolutely untrue. The guys that are selected in the centre, or to carry water, are nothing to do with my selections.

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

"For someone to imply that Darren Cave has been blocked is wrong. He is very much on our radar.

"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 and we keep an eye on what's happening at London Irish."

Schmidt defended his decision to omit Paddy Jackson from Ireland's autumn squad, claiming the Ulster fly-half needed regular club rugby after injuries.

Racing Metro's Johnny Sexton remains Ireland's first-choice number 10, with Leinster's Ian Madigan also making the squad for November's three Tests.

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