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Kearney believes it is only a matter of time before Zebo returns to international fold

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Simon Zebo hasn't played for Ireland since 2017. Photo: Sportsfile

Simon Zebo hasn't played for Ireland since 2017. Photo: Sportsfile

Simon Zebo hasn't played for Ireland since 2017. Photo: Sportsfile

Former Ireland full-back Rob Kearney said he wasn’t surprised to see Simon Zebo left out of Ireland’s 50-man training squad, but he believes the Munster player can force his way back into the international picture.

Andy Farrell decided to omit Zebo from last week’s mini camp, as the Ireland head coach looks for the 31-year-old to hit the ground running on his return to Munster.

Kearney played with Zebo, who last wore the green jersey in June 2017, throughout his career, and is in no doubt that he can make an impact following his three-year spell with Racing.

“I think for a squad of 50, it’s guys who were in camp last year, who got to play in the summer for the first time, and bringing the Lions guys back in,” Kearney said. “If he goes well in the first few months of this season, then he might be in the reckoning. To not see him in there straight away, I don’t think it was a surprise to too many people.

“He sells tickets. Again, when you’re looking at the future of the game and wanting to grow the game, those are the sort of individuals you want in a team and playing in your local stadium on a Saturday afternoon.

“He’s been away, he’ll bring back some fresh ideas, a new set of eyes from what he has learned in Racing and, definitely, he will add an awful lot of value to the team.”

Kearney is back in Ireland after a short stint in Australia with Western Force and although the 35-year-old had offers to stay in the game, he plans to hang up his rugby boots for good following a final run-out with the Barbarians in November.

Elsewhere, Munster coach Johann van Graan would not be drawn on speculation he will continue in the job beyond the end of this season after it was reported he and his coaching staff have been offered an extension.

“When the time is right for contract talks, that will take place in the background,” he said.                                                  

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