Ireland recall not playing on Simon Zebo’s mind as he knuckles down at Munster

Stop-start campaign for the backthree player since his return from a three year Paris stint

It will soon be five years since Simon Zebo won the last of his 35 international caps so it’s hardly a surprise when he declares his full attention at the moment is on getting a run of games for Munster rather than worrying too much about an Irish recall.

He will be 32 next month, his last cap in the summer of 2017 in Japan receding further in the background and while Andy Farrell brought him into the squad in autumn, a combination of factors have ensured it’s been a disrupted campaign since he returned from his three years with Racing 92, with five starts and one from the bench his lot so far this season.

“Not at all, no, I wouldn’t be thinking about that at all,” when asked about his hopes of an Irish recall during the Six Nations. “I’m just solely focused on trying to build up my minutes here in Munster and keep performing as best I can for the lads here, and training as best I can and try and get some rhythm.

“It’s hard enough when it’s stop-start now I’ve the opportunity to get some games back to back and just play as best I can for Munster and whatever happens after that, whether it be a last game or two of the Six Nations or try and get in for the summer tour, whatever, the Irish focus has to be on a bit of a backburner at the moment.


He marked his return to his native province with a brace of tries against the Sharks last September in his first game back and departing senior coach Stephen Larkham said he has been a breath of fresh air around the place despite his disrupted campaign.

“He has been tremendous in our environment. I don’t want to talk him up too much, he’s already got a big head!

“But he’s good. What he adds around the place, he’s always got energy and he sees the game well. He’s always got energy around the place in terms of having a bit of fun but also he’s got energy in terms of the strategies and tactics we’re using week to week.

“He’s balanced, he’s skillful, he sees things that other guys don’t see and he’s fast. I guess he’s one of my favourites, he’ll hate me for saying that. I think he has been tremendous since he’s come back.

“What does he need to do to go further particularly with the Irish team? I think he’s just got to get game time. We haven’t seen a lot of him. He got red-carded in one game and played in another couple of games, but the plan is to get him out there to play a few more games and I think that will help his chances at the next level,” said the Wallaby World Cup winner.

The red card, the first of his career, came when he and Jack Crowley tackled Ulster’s Michael Lowry. Zebo was sent off but was then cleared of foul play by a subsequent URC disciplinary panel.

It’s clear Zebo is not losing sleep over the incident and didn’t miss the opportunity to throw his young outhalf under the bus for his role in the incident.

“Yeah, I thought it was a disgrace, it was all Jack Crowley’s fault! I did nothing wrong and wrongfully got the blame. Yeah, I pointed the finger pretty quickly at Jack,” he said, grinning at Tuesday’s weekly press conference in Limerick.

“It was unlucky, it’s a hard one, the camera angles on the day didn’t support my case too much and it’s a tricky one, but there was a few mitigating factors involved when we had time to review it and go back to the panel, where we were able to come from, at the end of the day, it was Jack who hit him so it was quite unlucky at my end so I just pointed the finger at Jack.

“But these things happen, it’s unlucky, it’s a fraction of a second, it’s a centimetre in this game, it’s either really good play from us or it’s an unlucky card. These things happen, they’ll probably continue to happen, but you just try and limit it as much as possible and try to lower your body right.”

His three seasons in Paris meant he had a wider view of last Saturday’s Six Nations clash between France and Ireland.

“They are very hard to stop when they have a purple patch. They started off the game really well, and once they get rolling like that and they get momentum and their tails up and the crowd are behind them, they are very, very hard to stop.

“You just try to limit the damage as much as possible. But equally that does tend to slow down during patches in the game and Ireland capitalised on that and looked sharp on bringing back the score. It’s hard to put your finger on, the French game would have a little less structure in it I suppose, their menus would be smaller heading into games. They do a similar amount of analysis but less detail around the attacking plan,” he added.