RBS 6 Nations: Axing Paddy Jackson was wrong, insists Denis Leamy
Denis Leamy has questioned Joe Schmidt's selection policy after the Ireland coach dropped Paddy Jackson from his squad for tomorrow's Six Nations title decider against France.
The former Ireland No 8 criticised the former Leinster coach's reliance on players from his old club who are not first choice at Heineken Cup level.
Jackson's replacement Ian Madigan has struggled for opportunities this season and has yet to feature in the Six Nations, but the coach believes his ability to cover more positions across the backline gives him the edge over the Ulsterman.
His inclusion is one of two changes to the match-day 23, with Peter O'Mahony's return from injury seeing Ulster's Iain Henderson drop to the bench at the expense of Rhys Ruddock, who will travel as cover along with Connacht's Robbie Henshaw.
France have made four changes to their starting XV, with 19-year-old Toulouse sensation Gael Fickou named in the centre, Remi Tales brought in at out-half, Dimitri Szarzewski back at hooker and Louis Picamoles named at blindside.
Henderson is the only non-Leinster player on the bench and Leamy reckons that a number of Munster first-teamers such as Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan and Tommy O'Donnell – who was ruled out of the Italy game with injury – would be better options.
"I think what rankles with Munster people – and I suspect some folk in Ulster – is that guys who aren't first choice in Leinster are still good enough for the national squad," said Leamy.
"I would have to disagree with some of the calls. Tommy O'Donnell lost his place on the bench – I think he is a better player than Jordi Murphy.
"I would argue that Donnacha Ryan brings more to the table than Rhys Ruddock and you just have to wonder what Simon Zebo – a Lion last summer – has to do to get back into the squad.
"Paddy Jackson has a more rounded game at the moment than Ian Madigan."
FRANCE: Brice Dulin (Castres Olympique); Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Gael Fickou (Toulouse), Maxime Medard (Toulouse); Remi Tales (Castres Olympique), Maxime Machenaud (Racing Metro 92); Thomas Domingo (Clermont), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Nicholas Mas (Montpellier); Pascal Pape (Stade Francais, captain), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse); Louis Picamoles (Toulouse), Alexandre Lapandry (Clermont), Damien Chouly (Clermont). Replacements: Guilhem Guirado (Perpignan), Vincent Debaty (Clermont), Rabah Slimani (Stade Francais), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Francais), Sebastien Vahaamahina (Perpignan), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing Metro 92), Jean Marc Doussain (Toulouse), Maxime Mermoz (Toulon)
IRELAND: Rob Kearney (Leinster); Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Dave Kearney (Leinster); Jonathan Sexton (Racing Metro 92), Conor Murray (Munster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Mike Ross (Leinster); Devin Toner (Leinster), Paul O'Connell (Munster, captain); Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: Sean Cronin (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Martin Moore (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster)