'I think he is content enough over there' - Luke Fitzgerald on Simon Zebo's Ireland future
Luke Fitzgerald doesn't think that Simon Zebo will be able to force his way back into the Ireland squad despite the talented attacker's scintillating start to life at Racing 92.
Zebo has made plenty of headlines in Paris already after crossing for six tries in his first six games for the French giants. After it was announced before the 2017 autumn internationals that Zebo was leaving Munster to join Racing, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt dropped him from the squad for the remainder of the season - and it doesn't look like a recall is on the horizon.
Speaking since his departure, Zebo has expressed hope that strong form in the Top 14 could see Schmidt change his mind about his Ireland future, but speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast, Fitzgerald said that he can't see any return for the Racing star.
The IRFU policy is to select players based in Ireland and Fitzgerald thinks that deep down, Zebo is happy to be away from a detail-orientated set-up that doesn't mesh with his off-the-cuff style.
"I think he is content enough over there to not be getting picked," Fitzgerald said.
"He doesn't like it in Irish camp. I think he is happy over there. The Irish thing is a pipe dream. They [Schmidt and Zebo] don't get on well. They are different personalities."
Fitzgerald added that he doesn't think that Zebo's move was motivated by money, and that instead the ex-Munster back was drawn to the prospect of more freedom on the pitch.
"Think about it from his perspective - at that point of your career do you really notice the difference between €100,000 or €200,000? He is getting paid €200,000 or €300,000 anyway. That is huge money. I know he always wanted to go to France, and maybe Munster were going through a difficult phase, but he was starting for Ireland. He probably would have made the difference by being involved in the Irish Grand Slam team. I'd say he is thinking 'I can do my own thing, I get paid more money and I don't have to go into Irish camp anymore'."
In Zebo's absence, Rob Kearney has once again nailed down the starting fullback spot in the Irish team, but Fitzgerald added that he still thinks that Zebo would be the best option at 15 if he were available for selection.
"I think he would probably be our best fullback," he said.
"You don't have to do as much defending back there. He is great under the high ball and has great hands."
Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast in association with Laya Healthcare, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.