Munster secure Zebo with new three-year deal
“But Simon is also a very level-headed young lad and is a very good team player and only interested in doing what’s best for the team. Simon is at a very early stage of his development. He’s playing exceptionally well but if he continues to work hard I think he will improve much more as a player. He has a lot more in him and I think he can fine tune a lot of areas in his game to become a really, really good player in the future.”
Most capped player
O’Gara will become Munster’s most capped player against the Cardiff Blues in Musgrave Park tomorrow when he will win his 234th competitive cap for the province. Rob Penney makes 11 changes to the side which beat Ulster last weekend, with Howlett, centre James Downey, scrumhalf Conor Murray and flanker Tommy O’Donnell retaining their places.
A week ahead of their critical Heineken Cup pool games away to Edinburgh and at home to Racing Metro, Keith Earls returns from injury to partner Downey in the centre, while the fit-again CJ Stander is named on the bench.
One of the common factors for those players who have resigned is the size and support of the crowds at matches, which rarely if ever dip below 6-7,000 for Pro12 games at Musgrave Park or 27,000 capacity crowds at Thomond Park for some games.
MUNSTER: F Jones; D Howlett capt, K Earls, J Downey, J Murphy; R O’Gara, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, S Archer; D Foley, D Ryan; T O’Donnell, S Dougall, J Coughlan. Replacements: S Henry, W du Preez, BJ Botha, B Holland, CJ Stander, D Williams, I Keatley, C Laulala.
Munster contract situation
Simon Zebo(22): Has signed a new three-year provincial contract until the end of the 2015/’16 season.
JJ Hanrahan(20) : Has been upgraded from a development contract to a two-year professional contract until the 2014/’15 season.
Dave O’Callaghan(22): Upgraded from a development contract to a two-year professional contract until the 2014/’15 season.
Luke O’Dea(22): Upgraded from a development contract to a two-year professional contract until the 2014/’15 season.
James Coughlan(32): Has signed a new two-year deal to remain with Munster until 2015.
Mike Sherry(24): Having become first-choice hooker of late, has signed a new two-year deal to remain with the province until 2015.
Dave Foley(24): The talented young lock has also signed on for another two seasons.
Paddy Butler(22): Has more than doubled his number of appearances this season to earn another two-year deal.
Sean Dougall(23): The Ulster Academy product has quickly earned a two-year extension after arriving from Rotherham last summer.
Ronan O’Gara(35): Out of contract at end of season, and talks to begin after Heineken round six, but sure to be offered an extension, whether an international or provincial contract.
Doug Howlett(34): Out of contract at the end of the season, the Munster captain and All Blacks record try scorer is, pending the IRFU’s approval, likely to be offered an extension.
Paul O’Connell(33): Under contract until the end of the 2013/’14 season.
Donncha O’Callaghan(33): Under contract until the end of the 2013/’14 season.
– GERRY THORNLEY