Thursday, November 02, 2017

Leaving out Zebo is the right move, writes Ciarán Duffy


It has been a week since the Ireland squad for the November internationals was named, and the Zebo situation has died down a bit.  This is partly down to the nature of news nowadays.  It all moves so fast, and if it’s two days old it’s no longer news.  It’s also partly down to World Cup recommendation taking up peoples attention.  Still, it’s an important issue to look at, because it’s bigger than one player being left out.

I’ve always backed Zebo to be in the Ireland team.  He has a spark that Ireland often lack in attack.  He’s got the skill that helps vary the game plan from big ball carriers.  His moving to France does not change this; he’s still a top quality player.

What this is really about is precedent.  If Zebo was to get a place in the squad over a young player coming through, like Joey Carbery or Adam Byrne, what does that say to them?  It says it doesn’t matter where you play, you can still get into the team.  If that’s the case, the Irish provinces simply won’t be able to compete with the allure of the French and English sides.

Ireland can’t compete financially with the French and English giants, we also do not have anywhere near the player pool.  That means we cannot afford to give up the biggest pull we have, namely a place in the national side.  It’s crucial to set an unflinching criterion that if you don’t play your rugby here you don’t get in the national squad.  Otherwise, we will see an exodus of young talent from the provinces.

Some will bring Sexton into this, pointing out he made the team despite playing in France.  How good does a player have to be to get around this rule?  Honestly, I don’t think we are in a position to play any player that plays overseas, even if they are world class; it has the potential to do irreparable damage to the provinces.  Not including Simon Zebo is the best option because it acts as a deterrent to any players with wandering eyes.  If we were picking a 23 of the best Irish eligible players, Zebo would be in it.  However, it’s a sacrifice we have to make as a national side for a better future.  

Let us know your thoughts on the situation.

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Ciarán Duffy (@TheVoiceDepth) is a Leinster supporter and self-proclaimed ‘big cheese’ of Post To Post (@PostToPostSport).   He’ll write about anything rugby under the condition he gets to take it too seriously.
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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019