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Fitzgerald hits out as Aki signs deal that opens Ireland door

By Daragh sSmall

Luke Fitzgerald has hit out at Ireland’s use of the controversial residency rule as he believes that the international game has become too “diluted”.

On the day that Bundee Aki signed a three-year contract extension with Connacht — which means the Kiwi will be eligible to play for Ireland next year — Fitzgerald said he backed World Rugby’s decision to review the current regulations that allow players to play international rugby after a period of three years living in their adopted country.

The former Leinster and Ireland winger is adamant that the IRFU should focus on home-grown players, instead of looking abroad.

“I think it’s wrong,” he said. “That’s controversial and it’s no reflection on those guys. They’re doing everything within the rules. I want to see Irish guys in there.

“Are we not good enough to fill the spots? I don’t know if there’s a big enough gap to justify it? Garry (Ringrose) looks awesome, Robbie’s (Henshaw) brilliant, Stuart Olding, Luke Marshall.

“I don’t know if being born in a different part of the world makes you a better player. If they’re not making their international teams, why would we be taking them?

“Would it affect me if there was a guy from another place getting picked ahead of me? I’ve been in that spot and it does piss you off.

“It’s really disappointing. It really dilutes it.”

It also emerged yesterday that Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has already spoken with Aki ahead of his Connacht contract extension.

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