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Published: 12:24 | 9/4/16

McKeon feels Connacht players are overlooked

Connacht were the province with the lowest representation in Ireland's Six Nations squad

Eoin McKeon believes Connacht players "have to work harder" to gain international recognition under Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt.

Pat Lam's side have been the stand-out Irish province this season, sitting second in the Guinness Pro12 with three games to go and making the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.

Yet, Connacht players are still under-represented in Schmidt's panel compared to Leinster, Munster and Ulster, although Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane joined Robbie Henshaw, Kieran Marmion and Nathan White in the Ireland squad this season.

McKeon, who starts at openside against Bernard Jackman's Grenoble in the Challenge Cup quarter-final on Saturday night, feels Schmidt prefers to promote Leinster players and is reluctant to place his faith in those from Connacht.

The New Zealander spent three years as Leinster head coach between 2010 and 2013, winning two Heineken Cups, a European Challenge Cup and a Pro 12 title, before he replaced Declan Kidney as Ireland's head coach.

"I find that sometimes - possibly not this year - but I would have a lot more caps than some lads from the other provinces and they'd be getting the international nod ahead of me," he told the Irish Independent.

"I'm thinking, 'I've played so much more games, but they're there purely on the basis that they're playing for a different province, they get the nod'.

"You can't ignore raw talent and Robbie, Ulty [Dillane] being a freak, Finlay [Bealham] just coming along leaps and bounds.

"I can't complain this year, I've missed a lot of games in the middle part of the season. If I had played through that block and hadn't gotten the nod, then I probably would feel a bit more bitter.

"Do we have to work harder? I think so, it's still is at that stage where we have to kind of push that little bit more.

"You could go on for days comparing players, but at the end of the day Joe is going to pick whoever he is most confident with. Leinster lads have an advantage, because he knows them well."

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