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Dublin: 3°C Friday 4 December 2020

'I don't think an exception should be made for Zebo': Watch our Guinness Six Nations virtual preview

Former Ireland rugby internationals Andrew Trimble, Niamh Briggs and Ian Keatley were in top form on Thursday night.


WE PREVIEWED A bumper weekend of rugby in our Guinness Six Nations virtual event on Thursday night. 

Ex-Ireland internationals Andrew Trimble, Niamh Briggs and Ian Keatley chatted to Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella ahead of men’s and women’s matches between Ireland and Italy this Saturday. 

Benetton fly-half Keatley spoke about life in Italy during the pandemic, before informing viewers of what to expect from his young club mate Paulo Garbisi at the Aviva Stadium. 

Italy head coach Franco Smith will hand the highly-rated 20-year-old his debut at 10 in Dublin. 

paolo-garbisi Paulo Garbisi of Benetton and Italy. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“[Benetton head coach] Kieran [Crowley] asked me to give him a helping hand and look after him,” Keatley said. “For such a young age, he’s a smart player. 

“He’s clued in — very talkative, willing to learn and he listens. He’s also not afraid to have a go. When you’re a young player, you’re not over-coached and you’re so confident to try things. 

“He has brought that to the fore in his first two games, against Ulster and Leinster. He’s very athletic, strong, he’s a good passer and has got it upstairs, which is the main thing.”

Guinness Zoom Gavan and Murray chat to Niamh Briggs and Andrew Trimble.

Briggs and Trimble looked ahead to the tournament’s return, and gave their thoughts on a number of talking points — including calls that Ireland should make an exception to the unwritten rule not to pick players playing abroad in order to bring Racing 92′s Simon Zebo back into the international fold.

“Exceptions were made for [Jonny] Sexton in the past,” Trimble explained. “The reason for that was Sexton was more crucial to Ireland than Zebo. We just talked about how exciting this Irish back three is. 

I don’t think an exception should be made because the damage it could potentially do long-term.

“We don’t know what that could look like, and how many guys are going to turn around and take big contracts [abroad] — granted there will be very few big contracts anywhere for the next year or two.

“It’s so important that the provinces are going well and that guys are encouraged to stay at home. I think it would be short-sighted to bring Zebo in with that mindset.”

munster-v-racing-92-heineken-champions-cup-round-2 Racing's Simon Zebo. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Briggs agreed: “I’m with Andrew on this. I think we’ve got to start talking about the players who are here, as opposed to the players who aren’t. They know very well when they sign abroad what that means. 

Of course, an exception was made for Jonny Sexton but that was a completely different kettle of fish. He was the leader of that Irish team, even though he wasn’t captain at the time, and Simon Zebo was on the fringes. 

“Joe [Schmidt] didn’t entirely trust him and he was in and out of the team. He had some unbelievably magical moments that we still celebrate now. I watched him [in the European Champions Cup final] last weekend and I thought he was unbelievable.

“I also watched him for Racing against Munster and if I was going to be talking about anybody coming home to play then it would have been Donnacha Ryan. 

“Look, we’ve got to invest in the lads who are there now — Shane Daly, Jacob Stockdale, Hugo Keenan. They all offer a huge amount and they are all here.” 

There were questions from the virtual audience throughout and Michael Kirk was the winner of a Guinness x BuJo home kit plus the jersey of his choice. 

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