Republic of Ireland defender John Egan has defended team-mate Callum Robinson’s decision not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 despite twice contracting the virus.
West Brom forward Robinson, 26, already missed games for his country as a close contact before testing positive in November and then again in August.
“I suppose first and foremost, Cal was asked a question, he gave an answer,” said Egan, who will fill in as captain for the injured Seamus Coleman for Saturday’s World Cup Qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku.
“He didn’t come out and say he was against the vaccination or anything, so I was quite disappointed to see how many people jumped down his throat.
“Everybody can choose whether to get the vaccination or not, it’s a personal choice. As a team-mate, as a friend, I back my team-mates, I back my friends.
“It doesn’t mean that I believe the same way, it doesn’t mean that everybody is going to believe the same way, but I don’t think Cal came out and said he was against the vaccine, he simply just answered a question and said he hasn’t had it yet.
“As far as that’s concerned, Cal is a team-mate of mine, he’s a friend of mine and hopefully now he can kick on with Ireland and do well.”
Robinson’s admission came days after Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expressed his frustration at a reluctance among Premier League players to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
However, Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny also issued his own defence of Robinson, saying the player had been “vilified” for his comments on the vaccine.
Asked at his press conference if Robinson regretted what he had said, manager Kenny added: “What I can say about Callum Robinson is that he’s such a popular member of the squad. He’s a breath of fresh air.
“He always comes in with a smile on his face, he’s infectious, he brings laughter to the dressing room, people love him. He has great qualities as a man, great qualities as a human being.
“He has attracted a lot of criticism because he just came into a press conference and where the vast majority of players refuse to answer the questions, he was open and transparent and he has been vilified for it.
“But he is a terrific person and I think all of the players would verify that. They really speak so well of him and he’s a very, very popular member of the squad.”
On Wednesday, the Football Association of Ireland said they have “encouraged all our players at all levels to be vaccinated” but that they must “respect and accept the right of all individuals to make a personal choice on Covid-19 vaccination.”