Rugby

Eddie O'Sullivan Spot On Regarding The Future Of Simon Zebo's Ireland Career

Eddie O'Sullivan Spot On Regarding The Future Of Simon Zebo's Ireland Career

As news filtered through that Simon Zebo will be playing his rugby outside of Ireland from next season on, it was not just Munster fans who were upset that an agreement could not be reached with the IRFU.

Munster will have a big hole to fill both in the back three and around the club as Zebo was a hugely influential member of the squad, but what about Joe Schmidt and Ireland?

Many assumed that Zebo was signalling the end of his Ireland career by agreeing to leave for France as players who have chosen to do so in the past - such as Ian Madigan - have found themselves frozen out of the setup after moving abroad.

Speaking on Off The Ball on Monday night Eddie O'Sullivan confirmed that there is no rule against picking players who play outside of the country, and while there is an exclusion policy in place to keep Ireland's best players at our provinces, exceptions can be granted.

The former Ireland coach pointed to the example of Johnny Sexton as someone who was too good to not include in an Ireland squad, and believes that Zebo has a lot still to offer the Irish team.

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Is he now ruling himself out of the Irish team? I suppose to be fair it's not him, it's a decision for the coach. It's down to Joe Schmidt.

I don't believe their is a policy of exclusion. There never has been in my experience.

The exclusion policy has only applied to certain players. Ian Madigan was cut adrift but Jonathan Sexton did go to France ans continued to play. It's really down to the coach and what he wants to do.

I don't know if he has had a discussion with Joe Schmidt about that. You would think it would be a priority for Simon because he's at the peak of his powers at his age, he's had a big impact for Ireland, he's an influential player, he's a gamechanger, he's got that X factor and he's a player you would think would want to play on in that green shirt for another few years.

Hopefully it doesn't take him out of the equation. It does make it more difficult but if you look at both sides of the equation, it's more difficult for a guy to play overseas because availability is an issue because you don't get the same amount of leave, you miss squad sessions, you have to leave camp during the Six Nations to go back and play. It's all speculation but you would hope he is still in the frame but that is down to the coach. It's his call.

This is not the end of Zebo's international career, it is down to the coach whether or not he wants to select the player with the added difficulty in terms of being released by the player's club, and in the 2019 World Cup cycle it is hard to imagine a player of Zebo's quality being excluded.

It remains to be seen how Joe Schmidt sees the situation, but it would be a terrible shame if Zebo - now in his prime - could not continue to play for Ireland for the foreseeable future.

You can hear O'Sullivan on Zebo in full over on Newstalk.ie.

Mikey Traynor

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