Donncha O’Callaghan is confident that Simon Zebo can work his way back into the Ireland squad as he offers something very few players can.
Munster confirmed yesterday that Zebo would return to the province on a one-year contract next season, after spending three years with French Top 14 club Racing 92.
O’Callaghan was speaking on RTE’s Game On and backed his former teammate to impress for his province and country once again when he returns to Ireland this summer.
This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return home.
Full details ⤵️#SUAF 🔴
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) April 14, 2021
“It’s brilliant news, it really is. It’s a brilliant bit of work from David Nucifora and Johann van Graan and 100 per cent he’s going to bring the X-factor on the pitch like he always does,” O’Callaghan said.
“I think the time in Racing will be brilliant for him because I think he will have other experiences. What a guy to get back in it.
“He’s like the equivalent of Simon Geoghegan when I was growing up – just someone that you look to and makes you want to play the game.
“So Zeebs has X-factor on it but off it he’s so generous with his time and he creates a buzz and I’m delighted to see him back in red and green.”
Taking a pay cut to return to Ireland.
Zebo has reportedly taken a pay cut to return to Ireland, as the co-funded Munster and IRFU contract he was offered is less than what he was on at Racing 92, as well as less than what he could get at other clubs interested in him.
O’Callaghan believes the appeal of getting to play for his province and country again proved too strong for Zebo, in what has been praised as a great coup for Irish rugby.
“I know from chats earlier on today, that there are clubs and teams with big, deep pockets that would have loved him. Simon isn’t coming back for financial reasons,” O’Callaghan explained.
“He could have got a bigger contract, a longer contract somewhere else and some part of me thinks that’s beautiful that he wants to come home, that he wants to play at home, and I know his drive.
“He’ll want to play for Ireland and look, it’s a really competitive place and it’s going to be competitive for him in Munster as well.
“But what he’s got, I don’t think too many people have. In the big moments, he can go off script and just make something special happen and the more I learn about rugby, you need a few X-factor players.”