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Chris Henry: Ireland should loosen policy to bring Simon Zebo back into international fold

In green: Simon Zebo on Ireland duty in 2017
In green: Simon Zebo on Ireland duty in 2017
Chris Henry

By Chris Henry

There's no doubting the importance of Finn Russell for Scotland come Saturday afternoon. The fly-half is huge for them and he really seems to have grown his game out in Paris at Racing 92.

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It'll be an interesting sub-plot given that Russell will be there, along with Clermont's Greig Laidlaw, while Ireland's own Top 14 exile Simon Zebo won't. I understand the theory that players abroad won't be selected for national duty - it's an effort to keep the provinces strong - but in this World Cup year, is Zebo's absence cutting off our nose to spite our face?

The change in policy came once Johnny Sexton returned to Ireland after his own spell at Racing. Now, Johnny probably didn't enjoy his time there in the way Simon seems to be, but he was still getting experience of a different environment and a different style of rugby that was beneficial. He'd always miss the training week but when he came back there's no doubting that we got a lift and took confidence from that.

Simon Zebo does not walk into an Irish team. But I believe the policy should be loosened to allow him at least a chance to put his hat into the ring. He is a contender for Japan and he certainly might have helped the cause on Saturday past. Even without him though, there are still plenty of options as Rob Kearney's back-up.

I've no doubt that with only a handful of games, Robbie Henshaw would readjust to being at full-back again and become a serious option at the World Cup. The problem is when does he get them? Every game Ireland have, and any game he's likely to be playing for Leinster, will be huge.

Andrew Conway has been flying for Munster and it's a pity that injury has already ruled him out this week. Then you've still got Will Addison who has had some great games for Ulster in the No.15 jersey. It's a selection everyone will be watching this week.

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