Simon Zebo is facing a battle to keep his place in Munster’s starting line-up for this Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final against his future club Racing 92, the Irish Examiner understands.
Head coach Johann van Graan is set to name his matchday squad for the big game in Bordeaux at noon tomorrow and Zebo may find himself among the replacements after enjoying only limited game time in recent weeks.
The mercurial full-back, whose ability to bring X-factor to Munster’s attack saw Racing tempt the Corkman away from his home province for next season, has not played a full 80 minutes since February 23 having strained a hamstring against Edinburgh on March 16. Zebo’s return for the quarter-final victory over Toulon a fortnight later was short-lived, the full-back taking a knock in the first minute in a collision with opposite number Chris Ashton before limping out 24 minutes later.
A return to the red jersey came in South Africa last Friday and having been sin-binned on 17 minutes for a professional foul against the Cheetahs, Zebo was called ashore by van Graan on 48 minutes, replaced at full-back by Ian Keatley.
Keatley is likely to start at fly-half this Sunday against Racing while the expected return of Grand Slam-winning Ireland wing Keith Earls to a wing berth following a knee injury may allow the Munster management some room for manoeuvre with quarter-final try-scoring hero Andrew Conway the leading candidate to start at full-back should Zebo be relegated to the bench.
That would leave a vacancy on the right wing with Alex Wootton or Darren Sweetnam in contention to start.
Earls’s potential return ahead of schedule having injured his knee against England at Twickenham on March 17, has excited Conway who said: “Earlsy is obviously world class.
“He’s played the best rugby I’ve ever seen him play — from watching him as a fan of him when I was a bit younger to playing with him over the last few years — whenever he’s been fit over the last 12 months he’s on a different planet. It’s incredible to watch,” he added.
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