Friday 20 September 2019

'It shouldn't be a deal breaker' - Eddie O'Sullivan believes Simon Zebo shouldn't be exiled by Ireland

Eddie O'Sullivan doesn't think Simon Zebo's decision to move away should end his involvement with Ireland
Eddie O'Sullivan doesn't think Simon Zebo's decision to move away should end his involvement with Ireland Newsdesk Newsdesk

Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan believes Joe Schmidt will ultimately decide whether Simon Zebo's decision to leave Munster for Racing 92 has ended, or suspended, his international career.

There has been an unwritten rule in the IRFU that overseas-based players are not selected for the Irish team.

Johnny Sexton was dealt with as an exception and continued to don the Irish jersey while he plied his trade at Racing 92.

Players like Ian Madigan and Donnacha Ryan have been cut adrift for opting for more lucrative wages on the continent.

O'Sullivan told Off The Ball on Newstalk this evening that he didn't think their was an exclusion policy in Ireland and that Schmidt will have the final say on Zebo's international future.

"Is he now ruling himself out of the Irish team? I suppose to be fair it's not him it's a decision for the coach. It's down to Joe Schmidt," he said.

"I don't believe their is a policy of exclusion. There never has been in my experience.

"The exclusion policy has only applied to certain players. Ian Madigan was cut adrift but Jonathan Sexton did go to France ans continued to play. It's really down to the coach and what he wants to do.

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"I don't know if he has had a discussion with Joe Schmidt about that. You would think it would be a priority for Simon because he's at the peak of his powers at his age, he's had a big impact for Ireland, he's an influential player, he's a gamechanger, he's got that X factor and he's a player you would think would want to play on in that green shirt for another few years."

While admitting that players who remain at their provinces are at a distinct advantage, O'Sullivan believes that if Zebo is deemed good enough he will feature for Ireland.

"Hopefully it doesn't take him out of the equation. It does make it more difficult but if you look at both sides of the equation, it's more difficult for a guy to play overseas because availability is an issue because you don't get the same amount of leave, you miss squad sessions, you have to leave camp during the Six Nations to go back and play. It's all speculation but you would hope he is still in the frame but that is down to the coach. It's his call.

"It's been different strokes for different blokes before this but hopefully he is regarded well enough to stay involved."

He also warns that the IRFU must thread carefully as they come under increasing pressure in the years to come from big-spending French and English teams.

"I just think you've got to be careful here. We don't have a bottomless pit of professional players. It's our strength in some ways but it's our weakness in others.

"I think if a guy goes overseas it's more difficult. It's harder for him and harder for the coach but it shouldn't be a deal breaker. If we're better off with him in a green shirt we should find a way to keep him in it.

"I never didn't pick a player who was playing overseas. I did say if it was a 50-50 call, I'd go with the guy at home.

"We're always better off being inclusive rather than exclusive. That's my view on it but I don't make the rules."

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