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Monday Jan 15, 2024

Munster fullback Simon Zebo chasing Ireland recall

Veteran Munster outside back Simon Zebo, is hopeful for a return to the international rugby stage with Ireland in the upcoming Six Nations.

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Zebo, 33, last played for Ireland in 2017. His move to Racing 92 in 2018 led to his exclusion from the national team due to the Irish Rugby Football Union’s selection policy. He rejoined Munster in 2021 and was recalled to the Ireland squad but has yet to play in a Test match since his return.

With 35 international caps and versatility as a wing or full-back, Zebo’s season has been marred by injuries, limiting him to only three appearances for Munster. Despite this, his performances have demonstrated his attacking prowess.

The injuries of Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien open a potential spot for Zebo in Ireland’s Six Nations squad. When asked about his chances, Zebo expressed cautious optimism, focusing on his performances for Munster and maintaining fitness as his primary goals.

“You’d never know, I’m fully focused on just [trying to] keep playing well for Munster, you don’t want to count your chickens. Zebo said with a smile.

Zebo’s confidence in his abilities remains high. He believes that playing to his best is key to competing at any level, emphasising the importance of consistent performances with Munster amidst strong competition within the team. He acknowledges the need to stay healthy and maintain his form to have a chance at returning to international rugby.

“I just want to keep playing well, keep getting my hands on the ball and showing what I can do and trying to help Munster as best I can, and I know if I’m fit and healthy, I can mix it with anyone, so I’ve just got to keep putting my best foot forward. That’s the goal.

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“I’m very confident in my ability, I always have been. I know that if I’m playing to the best of my ability, I can play at any level.

“I’ve just got to focus on keep on playing well for Munster and that’s my goal. We have a lot of quality players here and the competition is high, I’ve got to do my best to keep playing quality rugby and whatever happens, happens.

“But no matter what the level, the bigger the game is when I tend to play my best rugby.

“I’ve got full confidence in myself, and hopefully, I can keep playing as much as possible and stay healthy, so that’s the main goal.”

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In the past 12 months, Zebo’s involvement with Munster has been limited, with only five appearances and missing their United Rugby Championship title run last season. He attributed his absences to various reasons, primarily health-related, affecting his ability to train and perform at his best. However, he is currently in good health and aims to demonstrate his skills in upcoming matches; confident that his performance will improve in bigger games.

“There were different reasons for that [absence] as well, so I won’t go into it, but my health has been the main issue and being able to train at a high level and then being able to put your best foot forward was a big part of that.

“I know if I’m healthy and training well, then I’ll play well, so now, at the moment, the body is in good health, and I’m able to put some back-to-back games on the board, but I haven’t been for a while.

“So yeah, the bigger the game, the better I play. Knowing that and knowing that my body is giving me confidence in training, now I can just show what I can do on the pitch, and that’s been the case the last few games.

“I’ve been playing well for a long time; it’s that my health has kind of let me down a little bit in getting back-to-back performances and different things.

“Each game I’ve been involved in this season has been a top-tier one against an international quality team, so I’ve been happy with how I’ve performed.

“Obviously, there’s room for improvement on how we’ve performed, but it’s been a good start for me. Hopefully, I can build on those performances and keep my form going into the next part of the season.”

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