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'They might make allowances' | Alan Quinlan on overseas player eligibility for Ireland

Alan Quinlan says a discussion may soon happen on making allowances for overseas players like Sim...

Alan Quinlan says a discussion may soon happen on making allowances for overseas players like Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan to play for Ireland.

As things stand only players under the IRFU umbrella and lining out for one of the four provinces are available for selection to Andy Farrell's international squads.

Zebo excelled in Racing's 31-27 loss to Exeter Chiefs in the Heineken Champions Cup final at Ashton Gate at the weekend, and yet the 30-year-old can't add to his Ireland caps right now.

Italy are the visitors to Dublin in the Six Nations resumption this weekend, with France up the week after, and Quinlan told OTB AM the rules may eventually change on the eligibility of overseas players because of the pandemic.

"At this level of performance he'd be starting at full-back for Ireland on Saturday, and against France the following week.

"But look, it's down to the unwritten rule by the IRFU not to pick players overseas. There are two fellas at Racing ready and willing and able to go!

"It may change going forward, and the coronavirus may change the whole approach. I think it's something that could be looked at, but as I've said all along, it opens the door for potential for players to leave and that's not a good scenario.

"Who knows, it may change? Ian Whitten and Gareth Steenson are at Exeter - Gareth Steenson left Ulster and went to Exeter 10 years ago and has just been incredible for them, a fantastic player.

"And Ian Whitten is an Irish international at 12, we can't forget that, he was brilliant on Saturday as well for them. There were five Irish guys involved and two are very happy that they've won a European Cup.

"That was a really special win for Exeter, and they deserve it. But Zebo and Donnacha Ryan - you could easily slot them into the Irish squad for the next couple of weeks, but it's not gonna happen unfortunately."

Quinlan himself remains of the opinion that the rule to not include overseas players is the correct one, but says he wouldn't be against a discussion around it.

"I know from a playing point of view these players would add value, but Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane, Tadhg Beirne, they're the guys who want to start next Saturday with James Ryan in the second row.

"I think if you have any more injuries in that area you might have to go 'Jesus' and bring Donnacha Ryan back.

"You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Some people think the rule shouldn't be there, I think it should be there.

"Having all the players here makes a massive difference. I'm still fairly strict on not picking players overseas, but it needs to be looked at and reviewed.

"I'd have no problem, if this decision came out I wouldn't be jumping up and down saying it's a disgrace and it shouldn't happen. They might make allowances for it or come up with something where they can pick guys in certain circumstances. I think that would be the best way to go to start it off."

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Alan Quinlan Andy Farrell Donnacha Ryan Gareth Steenson IRFU Ian Whitten Ireland Overseas Players Racing Simon Zebo