Zebo: Green shirt is being devalued

PROJECT MAN: James Lowe will make his debut against Wales

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Simon Zebo says he has no hard feelings against any player who qualifies to play for Ireland on residency grounds, but argues the IRFU risks devaluing the shirt by offering it as an incentive to sign for an Irish team.

James Lowe will become the 11th 'project player' to wear the green jersey in the past decade when he makes his debut against Wales tomorrow, and Zebo believes the Leinster winger merits his place.

Zebo is not considered by the IRFU because he is based abroad - he hasn't played for Ireland since 2017 - and feels that policy and the exploitation of the residency laws risks cheapening caps.

"He has been an integral part of Leinster the last couple of years. He deserves it 100 per cent. I hope he has a great debut," Zebo said of Lowe on the RugbyPass Offload podcast.

"Obviously I'd love to be involved. That will probably never change. But not being eligible because I play abroad would annoy me more.

"We saw when Johnny (Sexton) was playing abroad. People say, 'we're protecting Irish rugby'. How many players left when Johnny left? There wasn't an exodus.

"You hear stories of coaches in the past going out, 'come play in Ireland, you'll play for Ireland'.

"There probably has to be a bit more value put on the Irish jersey or what it means to Irish people to play for their country.

"At times the business side of rugby can take over a bit more when it comes to wanting to win."

Meanwhile, Irish-qualified Bristol out-half Callum Sheedy will make his international debut for Wales at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night. Wayne Pivac has included the 25-year-old, who qualifies for Ireland through his parents, on the bench for the Autumn Nations Cup opener as the New Zealander named a strong side in the hope of securing a first win in six matches

Having broken Richie McCaw's record for Test caps in the loss to Scotland, Alun Wyn Jones makes his 141st appearance for his country as he skippers the side from the second-row.


Justin Tipuric returns to the team that suffered that defeat in Llanelli, while Dan Biggar is fit enough to start at fly-half after coming off injured in that game.

Cardiff's Shane Lewis-Hughes wins his second cap while Wasps' Will Rowlands plays for the third time but there is plenty of experience around that pair.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis; Will Rowlands, Alun Wyn Jones; Shane Lewis-Hughes; Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau. Reps: Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Aaron Wainwright, Lloyd Williams, Callum Sheedy, George North.