Simon Zebo: I'm happy to stay at Racing - even if it means not playing for Ireland

'I don't think I'll be picked unless there's a lot of injuries because I haven't been talking to anybody in Irish rugby for a long time. I think the door is closed for now'
Simon Zebo: I'm happy to stay at Racing - even if it means not playing for Ireland

Racing’s Simon Zebo score his sides first try in the Heineken Champions Cup final. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Simon Zebo disagrees with Irish rugby's 'unwritten rule' that has shut the door on his international career while he plays club rugby in France - but insists that he is still happy at Racing 92.

Following his two-try performance in the Champions Cup final defeat against Exeter, a number of rugby people in Ireland – including Ronan O’Gara in his Irish Examiner column - have suggested that a policy of only selecting players playing for Irish clubs for the national side should be relaxed to allow Zebo to return to the fold.

But the player does not think Ireland coach Andy Farrell will look his way.

"I think it's difficult for the Irish rugby team to select me when I'm in France," he said in an interview with Midi Olympique. "But that's life. I'm happy to continue playing for Racing.

"We'll just have to see what happens but I don't think I'll be picked unless there's a lot of injuries because I haven't been talking to anybody in Irish rugby for a long time. I think the door is closed for now.

We'll have to see what happens in the future, but I don't think they're going to select me.

Johnny Sexton continued to be selected during his two-year stint at Racing and Tommy Bowe played for Ireland when he was with Ospreys, but Munster's Tadhg Beirne - despite a number fine performances in a two-year spell at Scarlets - did not get his first international cap until he returned to Ireland in 2018.

"Maybe because Johnny was out-half, he was more important but it seems to have suddenly changed now that I've come," Zebo said.

"It's a bit disappointing and I wouldn't be a big supporter of what they're doing with that rule but it is what it is - and I just have to continue playing here and being happy, and see what happens."

Looking ahead to Saturday's Six Nations' match in Paris, Zebo said that France needed to be effective at the breakdown - an area where they were not always successful against Wales - if they are to beat Ireland.

"The breakdown will be very important for France," he said. "They will need to get very fast ball so that Ireland's defence doesn't have too much time to put pressure on [Antoine] Dupont, [Romain] Ntamack and [Virimi] Vakatawa.

"The speed of the breakdown will be very important - Ireland have some very good players over the ball. These players can slow down France's ball. If France can have a good breakdown they'll be very dangerous."

It has been noted that France also occasionally struggled under the high ball - a favoured tactic of Ireland in recent years. Conor Murray has, in particular, been labelled 'boring' for repeatedly putting boot to ball.

But Zebo warned against taking Ireland's scrum-half for granted. "He's a very exciting player - he just does what he's told to do.

"He'll get the blame for coaches' decisions, so if a coach tells him 'kick the ball, kick the ball, kick the ball', Conor has to do what he's told because that's the way the team wants to play.

"I would say the coaches would be to blame if Conor's boring. He's not boring at all. He's an excellent player with, probably the best pass in world rugby.

He's a big, physical guy, so he's a threat around the ruck and defensively there's nobody better.

And he said most of France's hopes on Saturday rest on four players - Racing teammate Vakatawa, the halfback pair Dupont and Ntamack and captain Charles Ollivon:

"Usually if those guys play well, France win."

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