Zebo's Racing 92 future up in the air as Parisiens eye Puma star Boffelli

Whispers have surrounded the future of the Ireland international, in the final year of his contract at the Paris club, for some time.
Zebo's Racing 92 future up in the air as Parisiens eye Puma star Boffelli

On the move: The future of Ireland's Simon Zebo in Paris is being questioned in the French media this Mnday. 

Top 14 rich listers Racing 92 are stepping up their interest in bringing Argentinian fullback Emiliano Boffelli to La Defense Arena as a possible replacement for Simon Zebo, French reports say.

Whispers have surrounded the future of the Ireland international, in the final year of his contract at the Paris club, for some time.

It was reported in March that he was ready to exercise the one-year extension clause in his contract. Those claims now appear premature. There were also brief rumours of a possible American adventure when his current deal runs out at the end of June 2021.

He has yet to feature in the Top 14 this season as he recovers from a foot injury. Asked if he was looking for a possible return to Munster, he told BT Sports' Craig Doyle earlier this month that he was 'very, very happy' in Paris.

"I love playing with Racing 92," he said. "We've got some great players who are playing at the top of their game, so it's a very exciting team to be a part of at the moment.

But the 30-year-old appears in no immediate rush to put pen to paper on a new deal. "I'm just going to try and focus on getting healthy and getting back on to the pitch and let the rugby take care of itself for the first half of the season and we'll see what happens after that."

French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique reported on Monday that Racing are working to tempt 25-year-old Boffelli, capped 28 times by Argentina, to the Hauts-de-Seine suburbs.

If true, it would mark the latest phase in a long-standing bid to sign the talented fullback who was named World Rugby's Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2017.

The only question when the latest round of speculation started was whether Boffelli was a luxury the club needed or could afford. It would appear that question should now be turned on its head.

The club has already proved its willingness to make the difficult decisions to jettison popular players. Former France full-back Brice Dulin was allowed to join La Rochelle at the end of last season as Kurtley Beale was brought in.

Beale, who joined on a two-year deal this summer, offers cover 15 - as does club stalwart Juan Imhoff, under contract until 2022, and young French prospects Donovan Taofifenua and Max Spring.

As salary cap regulations tighten further in the Top 14, and the premium on 'Made in France' players mounts, it now seems that club bosses may regard Zebo as the luxury they can live without, especially if they can attract the younger Puma on a smaller salary.

Much will likely depend on the former Munster player's performances when he returns to Top 14 action. That may be sooner rather than later, if he's fit, after Beale - the Top 14's big signing of the new campaign - was sent off for a high tackle in Friday night's home match against Montpellier.

Zebo and Scotland's Finn Russell quickly became cult heroes at Racing, bringing Celtic flair to an already strong side wondering how it would cope with the loss of Dan Carter.

In his first season at the Ciel et Bleu, Zebo made 26 starts and scored 16 tries in all competitions, while Russell quickly made the 10 shirt his own. But while the Scot's form continued, prompting the club to offer him a lucrative contract extension, Zebo's second season qualified for the 'difficult' epithet.

Plagued by injuries, he made just six starts in total and failed to cross the try line in the Top 14.

His most recent appearance, against Clermont in January, ended prematurely as he picked up an ankle injury that kept him out of action until the season was cut short because of coronavirus.

Boffelli is currently in a bio-secure training camp with Argentina ahead of this year's rearranged Rugby Championship, scheduled to take place in Australia from November 7 to December 12.

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