Zebo: Thomond return will be a special occasion

Zebo: Thomond return will be a special occasion
Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan flank Mike Prendergast after Racing 92’s 30-10 victory over Saracens in Sunday’s Champions Cup clash at the Paris La Defense Arena. Picture: Billy Stickland.

Simon Zebo is relishing a return to Thomond Park to play against Munster on Saturday evening.

Racing’s Zebo made 144appearances for his native province, scoring 60 tries, and will now return to Limerickhoping to oust his formercolleagues as both sides tryto build on their bonus point wins on the opening weekend.

“It will be a special occasion. I suppose it was probably inevitable 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,” said the29-year-old.

Zebo has had more than rugby on his mind in recent days and he and his partner Elvira Fernandez, who have a four-year-old son Jacob and two-year-old daughter Sofia, welcomed the arrival of their third child, Noah Anthony Fernandez, yesterday.

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

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 that season.

He slotted into Racing’s 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 La Defense Arena, in western Paris.

With a squad of 24 full internationals from seven countries, and a host 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 Andy Farrell, he won’t be found wanting.

“You never know. I will just keep playing my best rugby. Last season was my firstseason 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 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 the call 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.

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. 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,” added Zebo.

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