Saturday 22 September 2018

'By his own standards, he didn't have a great day in Paris' - Schmidt says Zebo omission is based on form

14 January 2018; Simon Zebo of Munster prior to the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 4 Round 5 match between Racing 92 and Munster at the U Arena in Paris, France. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
14 January 2018; Simon Zebo of Munster prior to the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 4 Round 5 match between Racing 92 and Munster at the U Arena in Paris, France. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ruaidhri O'Connor in London

Joe Schmidt says Simon Zebo’s performance against Racing 92 in Paris cost him a place in his Six Nations squad.

The head coach did not select the Munster full-back for the November internationals and chose not to pick him again for the upcoming tournament.

Zebo’s impending move to France has been touted as the reason behind his non-selection, but Schmidt has insisted that he is under consideration.

And he says that 20-year-old Jordan Larmour is in better form.

"He is in consideration like anyone else who's currently playing in Ireland," Schmidt said at the Six Nations launch.

"I answered a question earlier about the balance we've got in our back three and we felt that Jordan was probably playing at a level that was appropriate to select him.

"I think Simon is great value to have in the squad and he's got an irresistible charm about him, he's always smiling and his positivity is great. But by his own standards, he didn't have a great day in Paris (against Racing 92) a couple of weeks ago.

"There was some wayward passing, some turnovers that he'd look back at and be frustrated with himself. It's crucial at the time of selection that we know guys are in good form.

"There's a bit of time during the Six Nations with the Pro14 games that he can still strike a claim."

Schmidt is excited by what Larmour can offer having called the 20-year-old up to the squad for the first time.

"I saw him when he was fresh out of St. Andrew's College and he's been into our camp before - the first time was probably 16 months ago during the November series,” he said.

"So we've spent a bit of time having Jordan in and to get him in permanently now is to potentially accelerate his progress into the matchday squad and into, potentially, a starting No 15.

"The things that we've seen in Jordan, obviously the most visible things are his ability to accelerate, to change direction, but he's a skilful young man as well. He's effective in the air, his passing skills are good, he fully commits to the physical aspects of the game as well.

"He's a really good kid, Jordan, so that's always a compelling factor as well."

Schmidt is happy with the back three options he has in his squad.

"Keith (Earls) has been super, hasn't he? To be honest, I felt he finished last season really strongly as well. We were disappointed that he was unavailable during the November series, but he's come back and he's literally hit the ground running fast,” he said.

"He also brings a bit of experience to that back three as well because with young Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway has spent a fair bit of time with us. We've also got Ferg McFadden back and he's got a strength in goal-kicking as well - we just wanted to cover our bases there and maybe take some pressure off Joey Carbery if that's needed.

"We've also got the experience of Rob Kearney, so we kind of like the balance of that back three, those six players who are covering it."

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