If you thought that there was one rule for Johnny Sexton and a different rule for everyone else in the Ireland squad, then you thought right.
Despite the fact that Simon Zebo will be plying his trade on Irish soil until the end of the season, the Munster winger and full-back has already been cut from the Ireland squad having announced his intention to move abroad next season.
The decision to drop the Munster star has seemed puzzling to many as the IRFU’s policy on selecting players operating abroad has seemed somewhat wishy-washy given the fact that Johnny Sexton was consistently selected during his time in the Top 14.
However, discussing the conversation surrounding Zebo and Sexton, Joe Schmidt essentially stated that the policy is in no way iron clad but that they will always do their best to select from a pool of players operating in the country.
Specifically addressing Sexton’s selection during his time in France, Schmidt confirmed what many had already concluded; if you are too good to be ignored, it doesn’t matter where you are playing. (quotes via The Times).
At the time I was new into the job and to set a rugby team up in the space of a week is an incredibly difficult job.
To have a thought process that is very similar to the guy that was running the team was, as much as anything, a real convenience to me going into a new job. That was a part of Johnny’s selection. He is also proven to be, over the last two Lions tours, the starting player in a Lions test match.
Zeebs has been great for us. But, he hasn’t reached the same level of selection, in those terms.
Schmidt went on to state that it wouldn’t take a massive injury crisis for Zebo to be recalled and that dropping the Munster star, to begin with, was a very tough decision to make.
“I do accept that people are disappointed because I am amongst those people. Is it emotive? It is for me because I’ve got massive respect for Simon, not just as a rugby player. He is an incredibly likeable young man. It is difficult for me as well.
“But, I have a responsibility to try to think as broadly as I can and try to future-proof, as best I can, what we think the picture will be over the next two, over the next six years and the risks inherent in selecting people who have signed elsewhere.
“It’s a balance. I don’t think there has to be a massive injury crisis for Zebo to be recalled. Form will still be a pretty big dictator come the Six Nations.”