Simon Zebo is currently preparing for the rather odd situation whereby he will be lining out in a crucial Champions Cup clash against a team he will be representing in a little over six months time.
Of course, Munster are up against Racing 92 this weekend and Zebo will be wearing the famous blue and white stripes of the Parisian outfit for the 2018/19 season. His announcement that he would be leaving Munster came as a big blow to the southern province but it has also affected his place in the Ireland team – Zebo was excluded from the Ireland squad for the November internationals.
Zebo was speaking to the French media this week ahead of his current club’s clash with his future employers and in a wide-ranging interview with L’Equipe, the Cork star provided a fascinating insight into his thoughts on that exclusion and his relationship with Ireland head coach, Joe Schmidt.
“It’s unfortunate [November exclusion] but that’s the way it is,” Zebo said.
“There were players in this situation before me and they continued to be called up for Ireland.
“I would not understand if there’s one rule for the others and another for me. I’m fully eligible because I’m a Munster player until June. I hope I’ll be called up for the Six Nations.”
It’s clear that Zebo wants to perform at the highest level and of course, the Six Nations is one of the top competitions in the world but he hopes that his decision to move to France won’t hamper his chances of lining out in green against France in a few weeks time.
Other Irish players, such as Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Sexton and Geordan Murphy played for Ireland while plying their club trade outside of the country but due to the changing rugby landscape and the greater threat of Irish talent being poached by clubs in the UK and Ireland, perhaps Zebo’s exclusion will be used as an example or warning to other Irish players eyeing a move to pastures new.
Zebo also hints at discussions which took place between himself and Schmidt over the Kiwi’s structured game-plan he implements with Ireland.
“With Munster, I’m free to try things, to play the moves that I see.
“I don’t have any shackles.
“Joe is a super coach who has had great success with Ireland. We already talked about it face-to-face. I said to him that I couldn’t play in such a rigid structure. I can’t play like that.
“Winning is important but for me it’s also important to do it in a certain way. But if you ask me to pick between losing in style or winning ugly, I’d choose the second option.”
Zebo goes on to discuss that although he has always wanted to play in France, he only wanted to move to a club that has the same high ambitions as Munster and that Racing 92 is the club that fills that criteria.
“I wanted to come to a team that were at least as ambitious as Munster,” Zebo said. “Racing want to dominate Europe and the French championship.
“I don’t want to just be happy to live in France. I want to win titles – to have an impact in a winning team.”
Check out our previous interview with Zebo where he admitted he would be open to returning to Munster at some stage in the future.