Simon Zebo Told To Forget About Ireland Recall Under Farrell
Simon Zebo pictured during a training session at Carton House in 2017 (Image © PA)
Former Ireland rugby international Reggie Corrigan believes Racing 92 wing Simon Zebo can forget about receiving a recall under Andy Farrell’s stewardship following Joe Schmidt’s departure as head coach.
As was always the plan, New Zealander Schmidt stood down following Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign, bringing a disappointing end to an otherwise hugely successful six-and-a-half-year reign with a thumping 46-14 defeat to the All Blacks.
With just 14 weeks until the 2020 Six Nations, questions are already being asked as to how new head coach Farrell can get Ireland back on track, with many fans voicing their support for a recall of exiled former Munster man Zebo.
The 29-year-old has not played for Ireland for two years, ever since agreeing to a move to France, with an unwritten IRFU policy stipulating that no Irish players who play their club rugby overseas may represent the nation.
However, Zebo used his Paddy Power column to express his interest in coming back into the fold, should Farrell break with tradition and decide to utilise all his options, something the IRFU would likely discourage.
“If something happens in the future, great. If it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world – I’m happy playing my rugby here in France,” wrote Zebo.
“But I have a very good relationship with Andy. He might have a different view on players playing abroad than Joe and if he decides to give me a call I would of course look at coming back and being available for selection.
“It’ll be interesting to see but for the moment I’m just enjoying my rugby and my life over here.”
However, rugby analyst Corrigan – who played 47 times for Ireland during a stellar club career with Leinster – believes the discussion is a non-starter as the IRFU simply cannot afford to run the risk of opening up the doors for players to explore other leagues outside of the Pro14.
“I don’t think anyone who plays abroad has a chance of playing for Ireland as things stand,” he told Gambling.com.
“You could argue that it was allowed for Johnny Sexton, who spent two years at Racing (2013-15) and kept his Ireland place, but Sexton was only an exception because there weren’t any other realistic options in his position at the time.
“If Sexton was to go back to France to play now, I don’t think that same leniency would apply because we have Joey Carbery and Jack Carty there, and both are able to do a good enough job.
“When it happened before, I don’t believe there was quite the same talent there at fly-half, and bear in mind that Johnny really was at the peak of his game at that moment in time.
“Ireland have plenty of good options on the wing, so a similar exception won’t be made for Zebo.”
Why is this IRFU Policy in Place?
The unwritten rule is encouraged for the benefit of Irish club rugby union, with much greater wages on offer for players who join clubs in England’s Premiership Rugby or the Top 14 in France.
It allows Ireland’s four provincial clubs – Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht – to retain the best homegrown players in order to compete with the best clubs in the European Rugby Champions Cup, and thereby helping Ireland’s cause.
Corrigan argues that the policy is serving its purpose well and making exceptions for the likes of Zebo – who by all accounts could have made a difference in Ireland’s failed Word Cup campaign in Japan – would undo a lot of resilient work.
He added: “The IRFU can’t afford to take that risk now with the likes of Zebo or anybody else because players will just start to leave Ireland knowing they’ve still got a chance of playing for their country.
“That’s the only carrot the IRFU have to keep players here, which they need to stick to.”
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