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'There is not a lot of world class players in Ireland' | Matt Williams

Former Leinster coach Matt Williams worried about the lack of world class talent in Ireland, talk...

Stephen Kisbey-Green
Stephen Kisbey-Green

15:23 6 Dec 2020



Rugby

'There is not a lot of world class players in Ireland' | Matt Williams

Stephen Kisbey-Green
Stephen Kisbey-Green

15:23 6 Dec 2020

Former Leinster coach Matt Williams worried about the lack of world class talent in Ireland, talking on the Sunday Paper Review on Off The Ball.

The Irish national side has not set the world on fire since bowing out of the 2019 World Cup in the quarter final stage.

After a year in charge, Andy Farrell has made do with six wins from nine matches in 2020, losing to England twice and France once.

Even in their victories, Ireland looked a much less clinical team than they did under Joe Schmidt. Despite this, Johnny Sexton believes that his side has not taken a step backwards since the World Cup.

Williams disagrees, suggesting that 2020 should have been a much better year for the boys in green.

“2020 is a lost year, and I have great concerns that 2021 is going to go the same way,” Williams said.

“I am not happy with the way the team is being coached; I always had questions about Andy Farrell.

“It is a terrible thing to say, [but it is] because he has never been a head coach. I don’t see how you could possibly put someone in to be the national coach that has never done the job before at any level.”

Ireland lacking World Class players

Despite his reservations about the coaching staff, Williams believes the real issues lie in the lack of proper international-level quality talent in Ireland.

“The top four teams, England, France, South Africa and New Zealand are significantly above the Pumas, Wallabies and Ireland,” Williams said.

“And then the next tier down, where Wales have got to, and the Scots and possibly the Fijians.

“How you bridge that gap is about talent, and while we are producing quality players, there is not a lot of top line, world class players in that Irish side at the moment.”

Williams suggested that there needs to be a few truly outstanding players in Ireland in order to bridge the gap, which he hasn’t seen.

“There are good players, but you haven’t got a [Romain] Ntamack, you haven’t got a [Antoine] Dupont, a [Owen] Farrell, Beauden Barrett or a Faf de Klerk,” Williams said.

“They just don’t happen, and that is more than coaching, that is raw talent and brilliance that coaches cannot put into their players.”

A dejected CJ Stander of Ireland near the end of the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at Stade de France in Paris, France. A dejected CJ Stander of Ireland near the end of the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at Stade de France in Paris, France. Photo by Sportsfile

The rise of foreign-born players

Ireland’s match with Scotland on Saturday contained 12 foreign-born players across both 23s, including five New Zealand-born players, and six South African-born players.

Williams believes that the reason for this high number of foreign-born players playing in the Celtic sides is down to a lack of quality in the homegrown players.

“Who is the replacement for Sexton? Who is the replacement for [Conor] Murray?” asked Williams.

“The guys that we have given the opportunities to are well below top international standard, and that is why we find ourselves with a relatively high number of foreign-born players wearing the green jersey.

“I don’t think that is good for the country; it is something I don’t agree with.

“It is not the players’ fault, the players are innocent in this. It is the system’s fault.

“You have to say, if we have got such a great production line, why are we having to select players that have been qualified under the 36-month rule?”

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Read more about

Antoine Dupont Autumn Nations Cup Beauden Barrett Bundee Aki CJ Stander England Faf De Klerk France Ireland Matt Williams New Zealand Owen Farrell Romain Ntamack Scotland South Africa

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