Tuesday 17 September 2019

Tomás O'Leary claims Simon Zebo's decision to pick Racing 92 over Munster is a 'lifestyle choice'

Simon Zebo and Tomás O'Leary
Simon Zebo and Tomás O'Leary
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Former Munster and Ireland scrumhalf Tomás O'Leary believes that the culture and lifestyle, as well as the money, on offer in France was behind Simon Zebo's decision to leave the province.

Zebo revealed today that he would be leaving Munster at the end of the season and it is being widely reported that he has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Ronan O'Gara and Donnacha Ryan at Racing 92.

By choosing to turn down the offer from the IRFU and Munster, Zebo will not be available for selection to Joe Schmidt after this season under IRFU rules surrounding overseas-based players. It means he will miss the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Speaking on The Last Word on Today FM, O'Leary said that the news isn't a shock but is a big blow to the southern province.

"I'm not entirely shocked by it. I used to play with Zeebs and I'd travel up and down to with him a bit and I knew that a few years ago he was in talks with a couple of French clubs but decided to stay and commit to Munster," he said.

"I know he has always said that publicly of his desire to play abroad and specifically in France. It's not a massive surprise but obviously a massive disappointment for Munster.

"Both Munster and the IRFU put in a massive effort to keep him and they put a big offer on the table but the financial clout of the French clubs has won over.

"Added to that is the lifestyle choice. He has two young kids, the kids aren't in school so if they go now they don't have to move schools.

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"He can speak French and he enjoys the finer things in life. I think it's a lifestyle choice. He's going to get a nice to get a nice few bob too.

"The lure of playing with Ireland at a world cup is massive and the IRFU and Munster did everything they could to keep him."

The fact that Ryan and Zebo have decided to follow O'Gara to the French capital is evidence that the former Munster flyhalf is fully committed to his current employers.

"He spoke at the weekend and he's got his feet firmly in the Racing camp. If it's true that Zeebs is going to Racing, that illustrates it again," O'Leary added.

"Hopefully this isn't going to open the door for Conor Murray and the likes to head out the door in a few years time when his contract is up.

"ROG is looking after his own back garden and you'd have to admire him for that."

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