Four English-based players – Geordan Murphy, Bob Casey, Mike Ross and Roger Wilson – have been absent from the Ireland squad sessions in Limerick this week. Premier Rugby Ltd. (PRL), the umbrella organisation which represents the Guinness Premiership clubs, blocked their release.
Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers), Bob Casey (London Irish), Mike Ross (Harlequins) and Roger Wilson (Northampton Saints) were all named in Declan Kidney’s 41-man squad for the week-long training camp in Limerick.
However, despite the Irish management agreeing for the players to be released from their respective clubs for this preliminary international week, the quartet were prevented from travelling across by Premier Rugby Ltd. (PRL).
London Wasps scrum half Eoin Reddan, the only other English-based player in the Irish squad, has been training in Limerick this week.
Reddan has a clause in his contract regarding his release to the international squad and both he and Murphy have survived the first cull – Kidney cut the squad from 41 to 34 players today – for next weekend’s GUINNESS Series 2008 opener against Canada.
Nonetheless, the difficulty in getting players released from England has caused concern. The PRL also refused to release English-based players to the Wales management.
The International Rugby Board are holding a meeting in Dublin on November 25, during which the international player release issue will be addressed, and it is hoped that the matter will be put to bed then.
Ireland coach Kidney said: “It’s not really for me to second guess what’s going to happen at that level, because the IRB have a meeting coming up in and around that area.
“I think it’s been unfortunate for the lads that are involved. When you’re not at training sessions it’s always a bit of a disadvantage not knowing what’s going on and it puts you behind a small bit.
“We’re not going to use the players (for the Canada game). We’ll see who the best group is to bring in next week.
“It’s not a help to anybody, to those players involved or ourselves. You just have to work through it, like every other challenge in life – just work your way around it rather than complaining about it.”
Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton explained the procedures the management undertook to secure the release of the four players for the Limerick camp.
He admitted that it was ‘a surprise’ to both the management and the clubs involved that the PRL stepped in.
“We don’t anticipate any problems for the rest of the November series, because it’s under regulation 9 (of the IRB Laws) and that’s not an issue,” McNaughton said.
“Hopefully the IRB will sort this out in November for the Six Nations.
“We had an acknowledgement. Our normal contact has been with the clubs. We talked to the clubs, as always, and we talked to the clubs for this release and we got release from the clubs.
“But the PRL got involved. They must have met and talked about it and decided not to release the Irish or Welsh players for this preliminary week.
“We weren’t aware of that attitude because we had evidence and a letter from the PRL confirming that we would get the players for two or three days this week.
“So it was a surprise to us and I think it was a surprise to the clubs as well, because we had talked to all of the clubs early on in the week and they had agreed to release them.
“But, as Declan said, we anticipate this to be sorted out in November and for it not to affect the rest of the November series and indeed the Six Nations.”