‘We think of all our players as Irish’

New Zealand native Bundee Aki is one of eight players who hail from overseas in the 23-man Ireland squad to face England
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday 21 November Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Radio Ulster and online with live text commentary

Kicking coach Richie Murphy says he considers every member of Ireland’s squad to be Irish following mischievous remarks about residency rules from England head coach Eddie Jones.

The sides meet in the Autumn Nations Cup at Twickenham on Saturday.

Ireland were referenced as the ‘United Nations’ by Jones on the grounds that eight of their 23-man squad for the game hail from overseas.

“To tell you the truth, we think of all our players as Irish,” said Murphy.

Murphy, a member of head coach Andy Farrell’s coaching staff, said: “We’ve a group of players obviously who are all eligible to play for Ireland.

“We select that squad early on in relation to who we feel is in the best place to play for Ireland over the next number of weeks.

“They’ve been in the country, they are members of their local communities, and we just get on with it from there.”

New Zealand-born trio Bundee Aki, James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park will start in London, alongside South Africa-born pair CJ Stander and Quinn Roux.

Rob Herring, another player hailing from South Africa, Australia-born Finlay Bealham and former England Under-20 star Billy Burns have been named among the replacements.

World Rugby guidelines state players are eligible to represent another country if they have lived there for three consecutive years, or if they have a parent or grandparent born there.

With some quarters calling Ireland the ‘Irish Barbarians’, England coach Jones seized his opportunity for a playful quip at his pre-match press conference on Thursday.

“I heard someone calling them the United Nations, so I had a little chuckle,” said the Australian.

He added: “I can understand how Irish people would be upset about Irish-born players missing out, but they are the laws and regulations of international rugby. They are just sticking by the regulations.”

‘There’s no us and them’

With Ireland seeking to end a dismal run of three heavy defeats by England, Murphy is convinced the foreign-born contingent are aware of the rivalry between the countries.

“There’s been nothing special this week in relation to trying to build up these guys,” he said.

“These guys are playing for Ireland, they’ve made that choice to come to Ireland, they are ready to go.

“They understand some of the history and some of the background that’s there. It’s not something we’ve hyped at all within the group.

“When the guys come in and play for Ireland, they are in a situation where they are more than happy to do that and they take on the challenge as if they were anyone else.

“I can’t say how they actually feel but from a coaching point of view, they fit into the group really well and they’re taking us forward.

“There’s no ‘us and them’, it’s Ireland as a squad, including the management.”

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