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Munster bid to lock down stars in wake of Zebo departure

Losing a second international star ahead of next season would be a disaster for the province.

MUNSTER ARE PUTTING pressure on the IRFU to lock down a number of key players and ensure that Simon Zebo’s flight to France is an isolated case.

Simon Zebo and Peter O’Mahony celebrate CJ Stander's try 26/12//2016 Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Top of the list is the retention of number eight CJ Stander who is out of contract at the end of the current season. He is not on a central contract but his provincial deal could be upgraded to an IRFU one.

There is no indication that the Lion and Irish star is poised to leave Munster, however they don’t want to attract head-turning interest from France and England and want his future wrapped up soon.

Captain Peter O’Mahony, who is on a central IRFU deal, is out of contract as well at the end of the season and Munster officials, already dealing with a mid-season change in coach, are anxious to have his future secured.

Zebo’s current deal is with Munster while Donnacha Ryan, who made the move to Racing 92 in the summer, left after it became known that his central contract was not being renewed.

Simon Zebo celebrates after the game with Donnacha Ryan and CJ Stander Simon Zebo and CJ Stander lift Donnacha Ryan at the end of last season. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Two other Munster players on central contracts, Conor Murray and Keith Earls, are both tied down until June 2019.

Meanwhile, one of Munster’s longest serving players Stephen Archer said it is important that they carry good form in the Champions Cup back into the Pro14 when they head to Galway to take on Connacht tomorrow.

Archer, whose 144 appearances leaves him only behind Billy Holland (168), Ian Keatley (158) and Tommy O’Donnell (150) in the current Munster squad, said that it’s vital they finish this block of games on a high, with a home clash against the Dragons next week before the break.

“Hopefully get eight points from those matches now and we would be in a pretty good position then,” said the 29-year old.

“It is an inter-pro game. Everyone always gives 100% the whole time, but there is a bit more at stake maybe in the inter-pros.

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Stephen Archer Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

“Those games are so important so you don’t want to be hanging on to the end of the season to win those. You need momentum the whole time.

“Even going into Europe then it helps a lot with a bit of momentum.”

Archer met incoming coach Johaan van Graan briefly last week in Limerick and he’s confident that the South African can take over from Rassie Erasmus in the coming weeks without too much disruption.

“He was in around the place looking to get his family sorted for a house and stuff. I was only chatting to him briefly, he seemed like a lovely fella. Just chatting to some of the South Africans around the place, he is highly respected there.

“He knows Rassie quite well, so I imagine there is a good relationship there and hopefully it will be pretty seamless,” added Archer.

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