Simon Zebo is heading back to Munster next season

The 31-year-old signs one-year contract co-funded by the IRFU

Simon Zebo in action for Racing 92 in the Champions Cup earlier this month. Photograph: Getty Images

Simon Zebo in action for Racing 92 in the Champions Cup earlier this month. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Munster and the IRFU have confirmed that Simon Zebo has signed a one-year contract to return to play with the province for the 2021/22 season.

This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries, making him the province’s all-time record try scorer, between 2010 and 2018.

Now in his third season with Racing, Zebo has played 55 times and scored 21 tries for the Parisians. The 31-year-old product of PBC Cork and the Munster academy has scored 32 tries in 61 Champions Cup games for Munster and Racing, making him the fourth most prolific try scorer in the competition’s history.

Head coach Johann van Graan said: “The opportunity to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish rugby.

“Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrated by his willingness to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try scorer back home, possible.”

Zebo said: “I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster. My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough, I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories.

“However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentially Ireland again, so when this opportunity arose the lure of being close to home, family and friends and Munster fans, it outweighed all other options. I cannot wait to get back to the HPC with the team and hopefully a packed Thomond Park.”

Simon Zebo walks off the pitch after the final game of his first stint at Munster in the Guinness Pro 14 semi-final against Leinster at the RDS in May 2018. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Simon Zebo walks off the pitch after the final game of his first stint at Munster in the Guinness Pro 14 semi-final against Leinster at the RDS in May 2018. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The re-signing of such a popular player among team-mates and fans will be a timely fillip for the province and its supporters.

There was interest from other French clubs and London Irish, whose head coach Declan Kidney gave the player his Irish debut against the All Blacks in Auckland in 2012. Munster are also, of course, more hard pressed financially than ever in light of the pandemic, as evidenced by the decision not to offer JJ Hanrahan and Darren Sweetnam new contracts. But in light of CJ Stander turning down a new central contract, the IRFU helped to smooth Zebo’s return and it is likely that a new deal will be forthcoming before the next year is out to ensure he finishes his career with his native province.

While there have been attractions to staying in France or moving to London, Munster clearly had the greatest emotional pull for Zebo. Furthermore, returning to Munster would potentially offer Zebo the opportunity to force his way back into the Irish team, a prospect which might be all the more tempting given the 2023 World Cup is in France.

He played the last of his 35 Tests for Ireland, scoring nine tries, in the summer tour to Japan in 2017.

Zebo’s parents, Lynda and Arthur, met in Paris where she was holidaying with a friend and he had moved from his native Martinique, so moving to the French capital and playing for Racing always made sense. Returning there with Ireland at the next World Cup would have to be a very tempting objective.

Casting a glance toward this point in his career last April, Zebo told The Irish Times: “I’d imagine it would be Racing or Munster. They’re the two teams in my head. Neither of them might want me, I could want to new seek pastures elsewhere, you never know, because rugby doesn’t last forever so every experience is really important. We’ll have to see, but at the moment it would be Paris or Cork.

“It was definitely a dream come true to represent my country 35 times and every single time meant something special,” he also said, and admitted: “I’d love to play for Ireland again.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.