Sport Rugby

Saturday 24 March 2018

Try celebrations did not keep me out of Schmidt squad – Zebo

Simon Zebo celebrates after scoring his side's first try in last year's match against Wales in the Six Nations. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Simon Zebo celebrates after scoring his side's first try in last year's match against Wales in the Six Nations. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Munster's Simon Zebo in action during squad training
David Kelly

David Kelly

Simon Zebo has dismissed as "nonsense" claims that he was excluded from Ireland's triumphant Six Nations squad because of his penchant for indulging in elaborate try-scoring celebrations.

Zebo, who revealed that he spoke again to national coach Joe Schmidt late last month, confirmed that he had been told he needed to work on his defensive attributes as Ireland plotted their championship-winning campaign with a tight-knit squad.

"Talk about try celebrations is nonsense," said Zebo, in his first public comments since being excluded from Schmidt's squad this spring, despite returning from a foot injury in January and scoring five tries in four Pro12 games.

"I don't think there's anything behind that. Joe loves to have fun on the training park and things like that. I don't think I'm the only one to celebrate tries. It's probably people looking for a reason as to why I wasn't picked.

"It's nothing to do with finding reasons. It's simply that Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble have done such an incredible job to keep the jersey. They've made it tough for me."

Munster coach Rob Penney was also keen to put the record straight, although it was about comments he himself had made when labelling Saturday's sell-out Lansdowne Road clash as "Munster v the Six Nations champions," the latter cheekily defining Leinster.

It was clearly tongue-in-cheek, although many folk have lost their sense of humour since his remarks were first aired last week.

Penney was keen to emphasise that the comments were offered in respect, not contempt.

"It was said and meant in a great deal of respect for what Leinster have done," said the Kiwi, whose squad provided just four players who were an integral part of Schmidt's squad. "They've basically got the Irish squad. That's the reality and they've done a terrific good job.

"They've won the Six Nations and certainly it wasn't meant to be anything but a respectful comment."

"For Munster, it's about being sensible about our approach to this game and making sure that there's a semblance of a trial here for ongoing national selection.

"So, we've got to work together to try to keep pushing the boys in the red jersey to the forefront of Joe's thinking.

"Underpinning all that is the fact that it's a Munster provincial team playing a Leinster provincial team, the pride that goes with that, the status and the bragging rights."

Paul O'Connell and Tommy O'Donnell will return to the side this week, although Donnacha Ryan will not and he is now a doubt for the Heineken Cup quarter-final in Toulouse in 10 days' time.

A specialist ruled Ryan (foot) out of this Saturday's game, but Penney refused to speculate whether the Nenagh man, whose Six Nations campaign has been spoiled by knee trouble, would be capable of lining out.

Prop John Ryan (concussion) is undergoing RTP (return to play) protocols, but there was better news for their opposition front-rowers, as well as Luke Fitzgerald. Hooker Sean Cronin took a full part in training having shipped a knock against France.

Loosehead Jack McGrath continues to be "monitored" ahead of the game as he recovers from a shoulder injury, despite initial fears he had broken his collarbone.

Tighthead Tadhg Furlong, who went over on his ankle in last Friday's win against Zebre, is awaiting the results of scans before a further update is given. Fitzgerald has reported no ill effects from his two-try scoring salvo against the Italians on his comeback from injury.

Irish Independent

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