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Zebo set for 'special occasion' on return to Thomond Park to face Munster

The Racing 92 man is hopeful new Ireland boss Andy Farrell will call him up to the national squad.

SIMON ZEBO SAYS it will be surreal coming back to Thomond Park to play against Munster on Saturday but the Racing 92 man is excited about his return to the Limerick stadium for their Heineken Champions Cup clash.

simon-zebo-leaves-the-field-after-the-game Zebo has fond memories of Thomond Park. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Zebo made 144 appearances for Munster, scoring 60 tries, and will now return hoping to oust his native province as the two sides try to build on their bonus-point wins on the opening weekend of the Pool 4 action.

“It will be a special occasion,” said 29-year old Zebo. “I suppose it was probably inevitable that we would clash at some stage but it is still very fresh. It’s not that long since I left.

“It will be very, very exciting playing against my friends in front of the supporters who I grew up playing in front of. It will be great seeing a few friendly faces. Ah, it’ll be an exciting fixture.”

Zebo has had more than rugby on his mind in recent days and he and his partner Elvira Fernandez prepared for the birth of their third child, baby Noah Anthony who was born yesterday in Paris, a brother for four-year-old Jacob and two-year-old Sofia

“I had quite a hectic week this week so I didn’t get much minutes under my belt. Hopefully, put my hand up and go out there and enjoy myself in Thomond Park,” he said.

Zebo made 35 appearances, scoring nine tries, for Ireland but was cast aside by Joe Schmidt two years ago when it was announced in October 2017 that he was going to leave Munster for France at the end of the season.

simon-zebo-with-his-daughter-sofia-and-son-jacob-after-the-game Zebo with his son, Jacob, and daughter, Sofia, after his final game for Munster in Limerick. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Zebo knew the consequences of his move to France and his primary concern is performing for Racing. He slotted into their squad of global stars with ease last season, scoring 16 tries in 26 appearances in his first campaign to become a crowd favourite at their indoor stadium, the U Arena, in the west of Paris.

With a squad of 24 full internationals from seven countries, and another clatter of U20 World Cup winners coming through, Zebo knows getting game time is the first priority but if the good performances continue and a call comes from new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, he won’t be found wanting.

“You never know,” said Zebo. “I will just keep playing my best rugby. Last season was my first season over in Paris. I was playing pretty good rugby.

“So hopefully now that we have all of our internationals back from the World Cup we can get back into the swing of things and continue on the momentum we are on.

“If I play well then the rest takes care of itself. I have had no dealings with Andy Farrell as head coach because he is just in.

“I have a very good relationship with him so it’s not a case of whether it comes or not, I will not be disappointed, I am just going to keep enjoying my rugby. Andy is a great guy and a great coach and I wish him all the best.

donnacha-ryan-with-mike-prendergast-and-simon-zebo-after-the-game Zebo will return to Thomond with fellow Munster men Donnacha Ryan and Mike Prendergast. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Zebo got to know Farrell initially when he was called into the 2013 Lions squad and then when the English man was appointed as defence coach with Ireland.

“We built up a good relationship,” added Zebo. “If I get a call then I would love to be a part of it and if not I wish him all the best. And I have no doubt he will improve on what was a disappointing World Cup.”

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John Fallon

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