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Simon Zebo announces end-of-season Munster departure

Simon Zebo will effectively sacrifice his place at Rugby World Cup 2019 by leaving Munster and heading overseas at the end of the season.

Munster have confirmed that the Ireland wing will leave the Thomond Park province next summer, with French club Pau leading the pack chasing his signature.

Zebo has racked up 35 Ireland caps since his 2012 debut, but the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) policy of refusing to select overseas-based players means he will not be in head coach Joe Schmidt's plans next season.

French-speaking Zebo has never hidden his desire to play abroad, and revealed he put his family first when opting to leave home province Munster.

"This club has moulded me into the player and person I am today and I will forever be grateful for that," said the 27-year-old Zebo.

"It has always been my dream to play for my home club, wearing the red jersey while representing my family, friends and local community.

"However, I have always noted the draw to play abroad one day, and in not taking this decision lightly I have decided on what's best for my family. With my partner Elvira and two young children, Jacob and Sofia, we are planning for our future and this is the right time for us to make the move.

"As much as I will miss everything about this place - the players, staff, supporters and friends for life - I know there are many more special nights in Thomond Park and Irish Independent Park to be had. I will continue to enjoy wearing my jersey with pride and will give my all in making sure Munster are successful this season."

Chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald admitted Munster and the IRFU were unable to match the lucrative offers tabled for Zebo from overseas.

"Working closely with the IRFU we put ourselves in the best position possible with an excellent offer, and while we are largely successful in retaining our best players within the Irish system we know it is out of our hands on this occasion," said Fitzgerald.

"We are hugely disappointed to see Simon leave but we wish to thank him for his immense contribution to the province and wish him and his family all the best for the future."

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