Zebo hints at signing new Munster deal

Racing 92, Gloucester and Bath among the clubs interested in Ireland winger’s services

Simon Zebo: “Munster Rugby is the creme de la creme when it comes to club rugby and I’m very happy to be spending my time here.”  Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Simon Zebo: “Munster Rugby is the creme de la creme when it comes to club rugby and I’m very happy to be spending my time here.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Simon Zebo dropped the broadest hint yet that he is about to accept a new contract from Munster, which is substantially improved on his existing deal that expires at the end of the season. However, he is still considering his options.

There are several interested clubs from abroad, including Saturday’s European Champions Cup opponents Racing 92. The Parisians have seemingly replaced Pau as the main suitors from France, while the new Top 14 leaders Lyon are also interested, as reputedly are Gloucester and Bath.

However, Munster are moving heaven and hearth to keep the 27-year-old, who extended his tally as their all-time leading try scorer with his 55th try in the draw with Castres last Sunday. This was also his 20th in Europe, putting him within three of Anthony Foley’s record.

He is also a hugely popular figure, not least among Munster’s younger fan base and his outgoing, good-humoured nature makes him about as marketable a player as any province could have on their roster right now.

Accordingly, Munster have apparently emulated Leinster with players such as Johnny Sexton, Sean O’Brien and Rob Kearney, by supplementing his salary with outside sponsorship.

That Zebo remains on a provincial contract is not especially significant, as that has always been the case, and has been sufficient to wade off interest from French clubs before.

Zebo’s father, Arthur, hails from France via his birthplace of Martinique, and the winger-cum-fullback yesterday again reiterated his desire to move to France one day.

This has to be weighed up with what he and his Spanish partner Elvira Fernández consider would be the right time to relocate abroad for them and their children, Jacob (2½) and Sophia (14 months).

Still unsure

“I’m still deciding what I’m going to do in terms of my family and my future and it will probably take a little bit of time. But I’ll come to a decision soon,” said Zebo at Munster’s training base yesterday. “We’ll see what happens. I’m still unsure.”

However, Zebo hinted that a move to France may be in the longer-term.

“At some time in my career, yeah, it just depends when. It could be at any level or any time, but at some stage, yeah. Munster Rugby is the creme de la creme when it comes to club rugby and I’m very happy to be spending my time here at the moment.

“If something changes or if I have a different motive for moving I’ll see, but for now I’m just committed to playing as best I can on the pitch, enjoying nights like next Saturday night which are incredible.”

The impending replacement of Rassie Erasmus with Johann Van Graan will not affect his decision.

“Munster Rugby is Munster Rugby. It’s not going to change with somebody coming in or going. I wouldn’t base my decision on that at all.”

Another factor liable to sway him into signing a new deal with Munster is a burning desire to continue playing for Ireland, and specifically to play in the 2019 World Cup. Moving abroad now would effectively scupper that ambition.

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