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'I wouldn't understand if there’s one rule for others and another for me': Zebo still hopes for Six Nations place

Simon Zebo’s present and future collide in Paris on Sunday as Munster travel to Racing 92.

Zebo: “From the age of 19, I decided that I would play in France.”
Zebo: “From the age of 19, I decided that I would play in France.”
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

MUNSTER STAR SIMON Zebo is still holding out hope of playing for Ireland in next month’s Six Nations despite his upcoming transfer to Racing 92.

Zebo’s summer move to Racing — which has put his future at international level in doubt — was finally confirmed by the 2016 French champions earlier this week.

The 27-year-old – who will line out against Racing in a Champions Cup clash in Paris on Sunday – was left out of the Ireland squad for the autumn internationals, but he has told French sport daily L’Equipe that he is still hoping to earn a recall.

“It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is,” Zebo said, when asked about being overlooked for Ireland’s wins over South Africa, Fiji and Argentina in November.

“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.”

Zebo will start at fullback this weekend as Pool 4 leaders Munster seek the win over Racing that would secure their passage to the Champions Cup quarter-finals. From next season on he will be in the opposite camp, following in the footsteps of Ireland team-mate and former Racing player Jonathan Sexton.

“From the age of 19, I decided that I would play in France,” said Zebo, whose father hails from the French overseas territory of Martinique.

“It’s true that Jonny was able to play for Ireland while he was playing in France. It would not really make sense if I became unable to be picked while I’m still playing with Munster.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Zebo also hinted that Schmidt’s preference for a highly structured style of play has not helped his chances, conceding that he is better able to express himself at club level.

“With Munster, I’m free to try things, to play the moves that I see,” he is quoted as saying in L’Equipe. “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 grew up admiring the great Toulouse side of the early part of the century and said Frederic Michalak was his idol because of the fearless way he approached the game.

Former Toulouse boss Guy Noves expressed an interest in signing Zebo several years ago but the Cork native feels he is joining a club of a similar stature next season. He had also been courted by Pau, where ex-Munster backs coach Simon Mannix is in charge, and Lyon.

“I wanted to come to a team that were at least as ambitious as Munster,” he 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.”

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Mark Rodden

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