Thursday 13 December 2018

Simon Zebo to join Ronan O'Gara and Donnacha Ryan at Racing 92 next season

Simon Zebo of Munster acknowledges supporters after the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 4 Round 2 match between Munster and Racing 92 at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Simon Zebo of Munster acknowledges supporters after the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 4 Round 2 match between Munster and Racing 92 at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Simon Zebo will sign for Racing 92 at the end of the season after Munster confirmed his exit earlier today.

The Ireland full-back had lucrative offers from a host of French clubs including Pau, while he was also offered an improved deal to remain with his home province in Ireland with the IRFU and private backers lending financial support.

However, they couldn’t compete with the offer on the table from the Parisian club, already home to Donnacha Ryan and Ronan O’Gara, while Zebo has long signaled his desire to move to France.

Although moves to France cannot be announced until April, pre-contractual agreements are common. Zebo has reached a deal to join the club and as a result Munster released their statement earlier today.

A fluent French speaker whose father Arthur hails from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, the 35-times-capped Ireland international has previously said he would be open to leaving.

The move will come as a major blow to the province, while it also denies the national team of a key player mid-way through the 2019 World Cup cycle.

Under current policy, the union do not pick players based abroad and it remains to be seen if his exile will begin during next month's international window.

“This club has moulded me into the player and person I am today and I will forever be grateful for that,” Zebo said in a statement today. “It has always been my dream to play for my home club, wearing the red jersey while representing my family, friends and local community.

“However, I have always noted the draw to play abroad one day, and in not taking this decision lightly I have decided on what's best for my family. With my partner Elvira and two young children, Jacob and Sofia, we are planning for our future and this is the right time for us to make the move.

“As much as I will miss everything about this place – the players, staff, supporters and friends for life – I know there are many more special nights in Thomond Park and Irish Independent Park to be had. I will continue to enjoy wearing my jersey with pride and will give my all in making sure Munster are successful this season.”

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