'There is precedent with Johnny Sexton' - Luke Fitzgerald thinks Ireland should bring two exiles in from the cold
Luke Fitzgerald says that Simon Zebo is the player that 'Ireland are really missing' and thinks that the Racing 92 star should be recalled to the Ireland team.
Zebo hasn't played for Ireland since announcing his move to Paris before the 2017 November internationals, but the ex-Munster star is still holding out hope of getting picked by Joe Schmidt for the 2019 World Cup.
Zebo has lit up the Top 14 and the Champions Cup for Racing 92 this season and Fitzgerald thinks his strong form merits inclusion in the Irish team. Speaking to Tommy Bowe on eir Sport, Fitzgerald picked his Ireland team to face Italy next weekend in the Six Nations, and selected both Simon Zebo and Bristol out-half Ian Madigan, who hasn't represented Ireland since leaving Leinster in the summer of 2016.
"I did go crazy," Fitzgerald joked of his team selection.
"I've Jack McGrath back in at loosehead because he needs game time. He is a Lions player and a top quality operator. I've brought in Rhys Ruddock as well, he has been brilliant for Leinster and a guy we should mention.
"Obviously the two that are going to cause a bit of consternation - Ian Madigan, I've brought him in from the cold because I think he is playing good rugby over in Bristol at the moment. I think he is still probably our second best ten even though Joey Carbery went well last week. I need to rile up the Munster supporters Tommy!
"Simon Zebo at fullback. I think he would be starting for Ireland there [had he stayed]. There is precedent with Johnny Sexton. I think Ireland look like they need another play-maker outside. He is a brilliant ball-handler and an excellent runner. He is brilliant in the air, and has a left foot kicking option. He is the guy that Ireland are really missing, he would make a massive difference to the team."
Luke Fitzgerald's Ireland team to face Italy:
15. Simon Zebo
14. Keith Earls
13. Will Addison
12. Chris Farrell
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Ian Madigan
9. John Cooney
1. Jack McGrath
2. Sean Cronin
3. Andrew Porter
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Sean O'Brien