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Van Graan confident Zebo will play his way into Irish squad

Zebo was a notable omission when a 50-man Ireland squad gathered last week.

Simon Zebo (file photo).
Simon Zebo (file photo).
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Updated Sep 22nd 2021, 8:32 AM

MUNSTER COACH JOHANN van Graan is confident that Simon Zebo will produce the necessary performances for the Reds to attract the attention of Andy Farrell.

Zebo, whose return to Ireland after three years in Paris was co-funded by the IRFU, was a notable omission when a 50-man squad gathered last week for a brief international camp.

Zebo, who made his international debut nine years ago against the All Blacks, won the last of his 35 caps in the summer of 2017 in Japan before he was ditched by Joe Schmidt once he made it known that autumn that he was departing for Racing 92.

Van Graan made it clear this summer that the 31-year old, who scored 60 tries in 144 appearances for his native province before moving to France three years ago, would have to play his way into the Munster side and that nothing was guaranteed.

“I’m not the national coach so I’ll leave that to Andy,” said van Graan yesterday when asked if he was surprised that Zebo had not been among the 50 players called into the one-day international gathering.

“Zeebs is a class player. He’s only just returned to Ireland, he hasn’t played a competitive game, I’m sure he’ll make the Irish selectors aware of him through his performances and if he’s good enough, I’m sure that they will look at him.

“But that’s not for me to say. The only thing we can do is give him opportunities at Munster and hopefully he’ll perform the way that he knows and we know that he can, and he can’t wait to play over the coming weeks.”

Zebo’s last game for Munster was the 16-15 PRO14 semi-final loss to Leinster in May 2018 but he could make his return on Saturday evening when they entertain the Sharks in the opening round of the United Rugby Championship.

Van Graan said that Zebo had already made a big impression since his return during the summer.

“Firstly great to have him. He’s a class player, he’s a Munster man,” added van Graan. “I’d say the first few days he found his feet and met a few new guys, but firstly he’s worked really hard in terms of his fitness getting back into our system and our way of doing things.

“And then he’s been really good craic — one of the words I’ve learned in Ireland — Zeebs brings that. Fantastic team man, fantastic family man and he’s so at home at Munster Rugby and really looking forward to seeing him play over the coming months.

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simon-zebo-and-rory-scannell Simon Zebo with Rory Scannell at Munster training yesterday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Zeebs was always a class player, he just continued that way at Racing. I’d say he’s certainly developed his game even more from a maturity point of view, from a leadership point of view.

“Obviously the more you play the more experienced you become and just small little things in terms of back-three play, the way you attack and the way you defend and the running line and he’s really shared that with everybody around him.

“We’ve got a saying, we don’t compete with each other, we share with each other and he’s been really excellent with all the lads and the younger lads. If you look at our squad there’s some incredible competition in that back three and everybody’s bought into and so has he. So really good to have him around the building.”

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John Fallon

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