'My phone is always on' - Simon Zebo gives his verdict on England defeat and remains ready for possible recall
Simon Zebo says that both of his phones are on and he's ready to answer Ireland's call if Joe Schmidt wants him to rejoin the squad.
The winger/full-back has been in stellar form in the Top 14 for Racing 92 this season.
An unwritten IRFU rule means that provincial performers are preferred to foreign-based players means that the Cork native is not being considered for selection.
Many observers, including Shane Horgan at the weekend, suggested that this situation needs to be looked at again with Ireland lacking a little depth at 15.
Zebo is not giving up hope of featuring for Ireland and says he’s happy to “lay low, under the radar” and let his performances on the pitch do the talking.
“My phone is always on. I've two phones and they both work, so we'll have to see," the Paddy Power rugby ambassador said.
On the clamour among Irish fans for his return, he said: “It's hugely flattering, it's really nice and it means a lot to me. Especially when you are playing out of the country and there's still so many people that think so highly of you back home who want to see you wearing the green jersey.
"I'll just keep on chasing and trying to give the coaches a few headaches by playing well.
"Hopefully, we'll go a long way in the tournament in the Champions Cup with Racing and do well in the Top 14, like we've been doing. All I can do is play my best rugby and give them decisions to make come World Cup time. For now, I'll lay low, under the radar and keep doing my best. That's all I can do.”
Reflecting on the 32-20 defeat at the hands of England, he added: “It was a disappointing result, I know all the lads will be gutted with their performance. They didn't play well, but they still had the opportunity to win it.
"They weren't a million miles away with 15/20 minutes to go on the clock. That just shows how good and competitive this team is. You have to give full credit to England though, they were obviously hurting after last year when Ireland won the Grand Slam in Twickenham and sometimes a team wants it a tiny bit more than the other.
"That's the difference at international level. I thought England were brilliant and Ireland were just a little bit off the pace.”
Robbie Henshaw was out of position on a few occasions as he started at full-back for the first time since his international debut but Zebo has backed him to bounce back.
“It was a big talking point for sure, but Robbie Henshaw is a world-class player. He's a Lion, he's a Grand Slam champion and a Champions Cup winner. He's a proven performer.
"Everyone can have an off day and that was probably it. I touted him to go in and have a stormer, but it just wasn't to be. He just had a little off game and he hasn’t played at full-back in years, so you can't fault the guy really.
"I reckon he'll be more used to the intricacies of the position, how to cover the grass a little bit more after playing because you can train all you want but the difference is playing it in a match. The rust will be knocked off him now and if he gets selected there again, he'll be all the better for it.”
Zebo expects Schmidt to stick with Henshaw at 15 for this weekend's clash at Murrayfield.
“There's a lot of injuries so Joe's hand will be forced on a couple of them, but he tends to stick with what he knows. I'm sure he'll give Robbie Henshaw another crack at full-back or else in the centre because he's too valuable not to have on the pitch. I'd say he's going to stick to his tried and tested like he always does and see how it goes. I've no doubt though that the players will put in a big performance and bounce back to put in a big performance against Scotland.”
Ireland have lost the opening round of the Six Nations on four occasions in the past and have always bounced back with a victory and Zebo is confident they'll add to that record this weekend.
"I see Ireland coming out with the same intensity that England did at the Aviva last Saturday and really sticking it to the Scots. They're going to be hurting, they're a wounded beast now and Scotland have their tails up after a bonus point victory over Italy.
"So, it's going to be a very close game, I fancy Ireland to win it by a couple of points. The Scots are going to be very dangerous. They are going to make line-breaks and if they finish one or two of those off, it's going to be hard for Ireland. They're going to have to do their best to keep Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg and Blair Kinghorn quiet. If they can do that, then Ireland will win.”