Thursday 23 November 2017

Joe Schmidt: I am watching Simon Zebo "very closely"

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has been watching in-form Simon Zebo very closely in recent weeks but reveals that the Cork winger faces stiff competition in making it onto his starting XV.

Zebo scored his fourth try in three games against the Ospreys at the weekend and the calls for him to be involved in the Irish set-up for the remaining Six Nations ties against Italy and France have been growing.

Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble have started Ireland's first three games and have been impressive while Schmidt also points out that Fergus McFadden pvovides cover for four positions in the back line leading observers to believe that Zebo faces a difficult task in forcing his way into the fray.

When asked where Simon Zebo was in his plans, Schmidt said: "He's alongside a number of other players. He is a player we are watching very closely.

"I've had conversations with Simon, I've spoken to him recently and one of the things about selection is that we believe Dave Kearney has been outstanding so far.

"A couple of his aerial takes at the weekend were outstanding, some of his ruck work was outstanding and defensively his tackle quality has been good.

"Andrew Trimble on the other side has been very effective for us as well.

"I think both wingers have played very, very well.

"With Paddy Jackson on the bench, Fergus McFadden is covering 12, 13, 11 and 14 because Dave Kearney can be switched to full-back. That's the selection conundrum.

"You've got to have cover on the bench for all those positions.

"If we change things with a view to swapping things around between Italy and France is that players will be short on game time.

"They are freshed up and ready to go but there are players playing well for their provinces and they deserve a go  but it's very hard to counterbalance what a player might do against Zebre one week or Ospreys or Dragons as compared to a player who played well at Twickenham against England.

"They are realms apart and it is very hard to make comparisons.

"Every Test match is a final in the Six nations, we can't afford another slip up."

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