Saturday 21 July 2018

Schmidt axes Zebo as Aki gets green light

 

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt speaks with Simon Zebo during Ireland squad training last February. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt speaks with Simon Zebo during Ireland squad training last February. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Days after his move to France was announced, Munster full-back Simon Zebo has been left out of Joe Schmidt's squad for the November internationals.

The Ireland coach has acted quickly to make an example of the 27-year-old who is set to join Racing 92 next season. His international career appears to be over despite the fact he will remain at his home province for the rest of the season.

This has led to some bemoaning a lost opportunity, with former Ireland manager and ex-Lions captain Donal Lenihan tweeting: "The warped nature of modern International selection reflected by Bundee Aki's inclusion and @Simonzebo omission."

Schmidt named four uncapped players in his squad, with Connacht's Aki the highest profile of the quartet.

The centre qualifies to play for Ireland on residency having spent three years in Galway and is likely to go straight into the team for the opening Test against South Africa in just over two weeks' time.

Fellow new faces Darren Sweetnam, Adam Byrne and Chris Farrell may have to bide their time for an opportunity having gotten call-ups, while the head coach has also included James Ryan, Andrew Porter, Jacob Stockdale and Kieran Treadwell on the back of their summer tour involvement.

Seán Cronin is a surprise omission as captain Rory Best is backed up by James Tracy and Rob Herring, with Niall Scannell out with a thumb injury.His brother Rory misses out, with his Munster team-mate Farrell getting the nod as Stuart McCloskey earns a recall.

Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran is another player left disappointed, with Rob Kearney primed to return to the No 15 shirt if he comes through tomorrow's return to action against Ulster. His brother Dave is recalled after an injury-hit year, while Andrew Conway and Joey Carbery are also providing full-back options.

Apart from Jared Payne, who has yet to play this season as a result of headaches, Schmidt has called up all of his 2017 Lions. Ireland take on the Springboks on November 11, before taking on Fiji on the 18th and Argentina on the 25th.

Irish Independent

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