Simon Zebo will leave Munster at the end of this season: 'I have to do what's best for my family'
Simon Zebo will leave Munster at the end of this season, he confirmed this afternoon.
The 27-year-old winger and fullback has attracted the interest of several European clubs who have offered terms that Munster and the IRFU are unable to match despite both the province and the Union making every effort to retain the player with substantial improvements made to his existing deal.
Given the IRFU's policy of not selecting players based outside Ireland, it means that Zebo will not be available to Joe Schmidt for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Zebo has always spoken of his desire to play in France and Top 14 side Pau are heading the list of suitors chasing his signature.
Zebo has a French background with his father a native of Martinique and is a fluent French speaker.
Munster Rugby CEO Garrett Fitzgerald said: “Working closely with the IRFU we put ourselves in the best position possible with an excellent offer, and while we are largely successful in retaining our best players within the Irish system we know it is out of our hands on this occasion.
“We are hugely disappointed to see Simon leave but we wish to thank him for his immense contribution to the province and wish him and his family all the best for the future.”
Commenting on the news Simon Zebo said: “This club has moulded me into the player and person I am today and I will forever be grateful for that. It has always been my dream to play for my home club, wearing the red jersey while representing my family, friends and local community.
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“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.”
The 27 year-old has represented Ireland in 35 Tests, scoring nine tries for his country, and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2013.
The wing, who is also able to play full-back, has scored two tries this season so far to help Munster into second place in the Pro14 Conference A as well as beginning the Champions Cup campaign unbeaten with a draw against Castres and an impressive victory over Racing 92 on Saturday, and his go-lucky approach on the pitch and charming personality off it has seen the Cork native form a strong bond with the fans at Thomond Park.