Former Ireland international Bernard Jackman has been discussing Simon Zebo’s controversial omission from Joe Schmidt’s latest squad.
Confirmation this week that Zebo would be leaving Munster at the end of the season, with Racing 92 his mooted destination, has led to Schmidt leaving him out of the Ireland squad for the Autumn internationals, with the 27-year-old’s near-certain unavailability for the 2019 World Cup believed to be a major factor in the decision.
Speaking to RTE 2fm’s Game On on Thursday evening, Jackman said that he broadly supported Schmidt’s decision to leave Zebo out of the squad:
“I think it was pretty predictable.
“Irish players are very much encouraged to stay in Ireland and it’s obvious that if you leave, you’re giving up the chance to play international rugby.
“I understand why and I back that decision. I think it’s really important for the Irish game, to keep the provinces strong and the national team strong, to keep our best players in Ireland.
“Simon would have been well aware of the rules and the decision he made would have been based on weighing up everything.”
The Dragons coach also called on the IRFU to remain consistent on their selection policy of overseas-based players:
“We made an exception for Johnny Sexton at Racing. He was a key man even while he was away and it was a huge coup to get him back.
“But that didn’t work out the best for Johnny in terms of combining Top 14 and international rugby.
“They brought Johnny home and I think they used as an example to everybody else to say ‘now you’ve got to stay in Ireland and that will be the last time’.
“If you let one go and pick him, it suddenly becomes a trickle.”
Zebo will remain at Munster, where he will undoubtedly hope to play a huge role in their Pro14 and Champions Cup campaigns, before departing for pastures new next summer.