Simon Zebo not holding out much hope for an Ireland recall

Racing 92 winger admits Rugby World Cup hopes would likely hinge on an injury crisis

Simon Zebo in action for Racing 92 against Ulster. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Simon Zebo in action for Racing 92 against Ulster. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

As Ireland look towards the Six Nations Championship and Rugby World Cup, Simon Zebo has had zero contact with Irish coach Joe Schmidt. The Racing 92 winger, who recently scored a try for his club against Ulster in the European Champions Cup, has accepted that while certain provisions were made for Johnny Sexton and Tommy Bowe, when they played in Paris and Swansea, none will be made for him.

Currently taking a break from competition before a holiday in Ireland and Dubai, Zebo has low expectations that anything short of an unusual spate of injuries will change opinion regarding the IRFU edict that players who chose to leave Ireland to play will not be picked for the national team.

“I don’t take too much notice of it. It is what it is,” said Zebo, a Paddy Power ambassador for the Six Nations Championship. “I’m not getting a look in at the moment so that’s understandable. Special cases or whatever for Johnny and Tommy and for these people who have played abroad in the past.

“If they’re trying to do a certain thing with rugby in Ireland and they want players to be playing here, I understand that. My World Cup hopes wouldn’t be too high but hopefully, if I keep playing well and, touch wood there isn’t, but if there are a couple of injuries then I might get a look in.”

Zebo has been playing some of his best rugby for the Parisian team. Less structured than in Ireland, the freedom of the French style suits the way he plays. Scoring has not been a problem.

“Yeah, I’m enjoying. Yeah, I’ve had a good run of games, scoring a few tries and linking up well with Finn (Russell) and the other backs we have. There’s a lot of threats in the team, one to 23. There are threats all over the park.

“The mindset is just a little bit different in how to approach the game. There’s definitely a bit more freedom for the likes of myself and Finn and all the other dangerous backs we have. It’s very much play what you see, risk and reward.

“You really feel there’s a lot of one on one opportunities and teams can’t double up on you or close you down too early because there are so many threats elsewhere. It’s just been really enjoyable and we have a very talented team so when we do click, it’s pretty hard to stop.”

Zebo retains the special memories of playing in Aviva Stadium against England. He started on the left wing, with Keith Earls on the right and Jared Payne at fullback, when Ireland won 13-9 in March 2017. It denied the visitors a Grand Slam, Iain Henderson grabbing the only try of the match.

“Good memories,” says Zebo. “Especially in Dublin, the atmosphere was always electric. Amazing games to play in. The Ireland England rivalry is always really special and there’s an extra bit of edge to the game.

"No doubt the atmosphere will be very similar. For me in the past, some very good memories of playing and beating England in the Aviva.”

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