Tuesday 24 October 2017

Simon Zebo to travel with matchday 23 despite omission because of 'wear and tear'

Ireland's Simon Zebo in action during squad training. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Simon Zebo in action during squad training. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Simon Zebo will travel to Edinburgh for Ireland’s final Six Nations game against Scotland despite being left out of Joe Schmidt’s matchday 23 entirely.

The coach cited “wear and tear” and fatigue for his decision to change his back three, with Luke Fitzgerald making his first appearance of the campaign at Murrayfield.

Schmidt praised the Corkman’s response to the news he was being left out after nine successive starts, but is looking forward to seeing what Fitzgerald has to offer.

He also cited freshness as a reason behind his other change which sees Cian Healy come in for Jack McGrath at loosehead prop.

“I don’t think a player ever feels like they need a rest, they want to keep playing and they want to be there. There’s a bit of disappointment, but a little bit of a sense of relief because he has shown that wear and tear,” he said.

“Simon’s rebounded particularly well today in training, he’ll certainly travel with us.

“Probably with Simon, he started the last nine Test matches and all of the Six Nations and he is showing signs of wear and tear, we wanted someone who was at 100%. We have a number of guys who have played right through the championship.

“It’s a little bit the same for Jack, it’s an opportunity for Cian to have some training time with the Cian. He and Jack has shared some time.

“Jack has contributed really well, it’s a role reversal but they have been sharing a bit of time and this way we thought we’d rotate that around. We’re lucky to have two very effective loosehead props.

“Luke a real freshness, he’s been chomping at the bit for a while. Simon’s performances have made it hard, we’ve been talking about it the last two weeks but we want a balance between continuity and freshness.

“It’s been a long way back after a number of injuries, but he has an exuberance and positivity that make it difficult to keep him down.

“Injury forced him away from the pitch for long periods, but he worked hard to get back and we’ll need his resilience.”

With Wales, Ireland and England neck and neck with the title set to come down to points difference, the coach will be keeping an eye on events in Rome where Warren Gatland’s men take on an Italy side who played poorly against France last weekend.

“Wales will fancy their chances, Italy have tended to fade in their last two games in the last few years. I think the forecast in Rome is good and that allows Wales to have a good shot,” Schmidt said of the first game of super Saturday.

“But, Castro (Martin Castrogiovanni) is back in and they’ll show a measure of resolve and an opportunity to secure their place in the championship.

“We’ll get a bit of a look at the result of that game and it can’t affect our preparation or what we’re trying to do. It’s a distraction and last minute distractions are never good.

“I don’t think you can rule anything out. If they have a big win, whatever happens we’ll try and determine what the best thing there for us. I’d caution against chasing anything other than a win over Scotland.

“There’s a bit of desperation in both teams and it should make for a competitive Test match.”

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