Connacht head coach Andy Friend has fired back at Jake White after he described the Irish side as a team made up of players looking to get deals with big clubs.
White made the comments during a pre-match interview before the Bulls’ United Rugby Championship match against Connacht this past Friday.
During the interview, White said that Connacht are a club made up of players who could not cut it at Leinster and were only at the Irish club to try to earn a bigger contract.
It was a foot-in-mouth moment as Connacht would go on to hand the Bulls a 34-7 defeat, scoring five tries in the process.
Speaking post-match, Connacht coach Friend said his team were not aware of White’s comments before the game kicked off, but described them as ill-informed.
“It’s not an isolated incident and, unfortunately, I think people look at Connacht down the end of their nose and don’t really pay us too much respect, which we need to change and we’re aware of that,” Friend said.
“I just thought Jake’s comments were ill-informed, to be honest with you.
“Yes, we have Leinster players, as does every team in the country, if you check out Ulster, Munster, they’ve got Leinster players, too, because that’s where the bulk of the population is in Ireland, it’s in Dublin, so you can only fit a certain amount of players into their squad.
“So, there’s going to be a transition of players into other squads but we really pride ourselves on our home-grown players, of which we had Dave Heffernan, Jack Carty, and Tiernan O’Halloran all starting on the weekend, we had Matt Burke and Caolan Blade coming off the bench.
“So, in the 23 we had three of our own home-grown and then a lot of other players who have come through our academy, so they may have originated in Leinster but they come down to our academy and work really hard with the likes of Eric Elwood and, at the moment, Mark Sexton and Andrew Browne, but also Colly Tucker and Mossy Lawler, who have been through that programme.
“So, I just thought it was an ill-informed comment, it didn’t bode well for him. We’re proud of what we’re doing here, there’s opportunity for people to come down here.
“But certainly I don’t think it should be seen as a B-grade option for players, it’s another professional outfit and I suppose by the end of the year we’ll be able to tell you where we sit in that pecking order of one to four.”
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