Irish Daily Mail

‘Great news’ as Munster welcome Zebo home


SIMON ZEBO’S return to Munster from France has been warmly welcomed as a massive boost for the province. Zebo has taken a pay cut to rejoin Munster from Racing 92 on what is initially a oneyear contract which will be co-funded by the province and the IRFU. Much to the delight of their supporters, Munster confirmed yesterday that the 31-year-old has been resigned following three years in Paris, the move being greeted with widespread enthusiasm. ‘It’s great news,’ former Ireland captain and Munster hooker Keith Wood told Off The Ball last night. ‘He’s coming back and a lot of the young guys will learn from him. I think he still has a high level of ambition and I think he wants to play for Ireland. ‘He didn’t fit into Joe Schmidt’s plans but if he fits into Andy Farrell’s plans, I think it’s all round good news for everybody.’

Having faced criticism for not renewing the contracts of Darren Sweetnam and JJ Hanrahan while signing South African Jason Jenkins, the province will be boosted by the return of the Cork man, who is Munster’s record try scorer. Even though the pandemic

has created financial difficulti­es for Munster, CJ Stander’s decision to retire freed up some money ring-fenced for playing contracts, which was availed of to sign Zebo. ‘The opportunit­y to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish rugby,’ said Munster head coach Johann van Graan. ‘Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrate­d in his willingnes­s to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try-scorer back home possible.’ Zebo has hinted in the past that he wanted to return home to Munster to see out his playing days and has spoken about making the Ireland squad for the 2023 World Cup in France.

Zebo won the last of his 35 internatio­nal caps in 2017. ‘I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster,’ Zebo said. ‘My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough. ‘I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories. ‘However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentiall­y Ireland again.’ Meanwhile, four Leinster players have made the shortlist for European player of the year. Tadhg Furlong, Hugo Keenan, Robbie Henshaw and Josh van der Flier join five players from Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle, four from Toulouse and one each from Clermont and Bordeaux.

EUROPEAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES: G Alldritt, L Botia, K Gourdon, R Rhule, W Skelton (La Rochelle); H Keenan, J van der Flier, R Henshaw, T Furlong (Leinster); A Dupont, R Ntamack, J Kaino, J Marchand (Toulouse); M Jalibert (Bodeaux); K Matsushima (Clermont).

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