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Zebo has no complaints over Ireland omission as he adds energy to Munster

The 31-year-old hasn’t played a huge amount of rugby this season but has signed a new contract.

Zebo has extended his Munster deal until 2024.
Zebo has extended his Munster deal until 2024.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

SIMON ZEBO WAS AWAY from Munster for three years but he didn’t change all that much.

For starters, he still loves cracking jokes. The 31-year-old Cork man could surely never be accused of taking life too seriously.

Asked about his red card against Ulster last month – a decision that was later overturned by a disciplinary committee – Zebo breaks into a smile.

“I thought it was a disgrace, it was all Jack Crowley’s fault!” he says, alluding to the fact that Munster out-half Crowley was also involved in the tackle on Ulster’s Mike Lowry. 

Zebo is often looking for victims around Munster’s training centre in Limerick too.

“He’s always got energy around the place in terms of having a bit of fun,” is how Munster senior coach Stephen Larkham puts it.

They’re certainly enjoying having Zebo back around the place at Munster this season after his three years in France with Racing 92.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is Zebo’s delight in scoring tries. Munster’s all-time leading try-scorer has bagged four of them in five starts so far this season.

simon-zebo-and-niall-scannell Zebo at Munster training with Niall Scannell. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Irish rugby fans had probably expected to see more of Zebo out on the pitch in this campaign but a combination of not being selected to play for Ireland last autumn, his province’s Covid-struck tour to South Africa, and the aforementioned red card have kept him out of the limelight.

“I haven’t played that much so I don’t know myself,” says Zebo with another laugh when he’s asked how he has changed as a player since his last stint with Munster.

Zebo started last weekend’s 13-11 defeat away to Glasgow on the left wing and he now hopes to get on a run of games as he attempts to battle back into Ireland contention.

The IRFU co-funded the one-year contract that brought Zebo back to Munster last summer, an indication of how the union was keen to bring the player home after his time in France ended.

Zebo was part of Ireland’s squad for the November Tests without featuring on the pitch and he dropped out of the group for the current Six Nations. He has no gripes with Andy Farrell’s decision.

“I’ve no complaints over that,” says Zebo. “I hadn’t played any rugby so obviously going into November, I didn’t play. It was mostly about getting up to speed and then trying to kick forward towards the Six Nations.

“But I didn’t play any rugby so I’ve no complaints. There have been boys in my province and other provinces going well so they’re rightly rewarded. For me personally, it’s about trying to get a run of games and get a nice rhythm heading into the back end of the season.

“I feel fresh, I haven’t played a lot of rugby for one reason or another. Hopefully, now we can get some consistency and rhythm and attack the end of the season and try to win some silverware.”

simon-zebo-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try Zebo has scored four tries so far this season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Despite the relative lack of game time, Munster have been impressed with Zebo’s influence within their squad since his return.

Indeed, they have already extended his contract for another two years, with attack coach Larkham highlighting what Zebo has brought to the party.

“He has been tremendous in our environment,” says Larkham. “I don’t want to talk him up too much, he’s already got a big head, but he’s good.

“What he adds around the place, he’s always got energy and he sees the game well. He’s always got energy around the place in terms of having a bit of fun but also he’s got energy in terms of the strategies and tactics we’re using week to week.

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“He’s balanced, he’s skillful, he sees things that other guys don’t see and he’s fast. I guess he’s one of my favourites, he’ll hate me for saying that. I think he has been tremendous since he’s come back.”

Zebo is happy to help with younger backs in the squad, although he had grown into that role even before leaving Munster back in 2018.

“I try to pass on as much experience to the younger lads as possible and how I see the game and different things,” he explains.

“I wouldn’t see it as a huge role change but there are obviously a few extra young players around the squad now to lend a hand to.

“They’re all mad keen to learn and very promising young players, so the more help the better and there’s plenty of us there – Andrew [Conway], there’s Earlsy, there’s plenty of lads there with experience.

“So we’re all rowing in the same direction, helping each other out, getting better every day.”

Ireland legend Rob Kearney joined host Seán Burke, Murray Kinsella and Eimear Considine for the first episode of The Front Row, in partnership with Guinness. Rob speaks about his most euphoric moment in a green jersey, life after retirement, a “brutal” return to the GAA pitch, and his skincare routine. Click here to subscribe or listen below:


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