Tuesday 11 December 2018

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Cork Independent


Racing confirm Zebo move

Wednesday, 10th January, 2018 5:00pm

Bonjour, Paris! Simon Zebo is set for a move to Paris with confirmation this week that he is to join Racing 92 next season.

The move had been speculated about since October when Zebo announced he is to leave Munster at the end of the season but Racing did not confirm the signing until this week, in a somewhat unusual fashion-through a Q&A with the player on their website.

The timing of the announcement was also seen as curious as Munster travel to France this weekend to face the Top 14 club in a crucial Champion's Cup tie.

One of the questions put to Zebo was how he felt coming up against his future employers to which he answered: “It’s going to be a very, very big game. A difficult match for both teams but especially for Munster. We will have to do the maximum, give everything we have and not make mistakes if we want a result. Racing is one of the best teams in Europe, but hey, Munster too.”

On whether or not the Munster fans had accepted Zebo's decision to leave, he said: “It was difficult at first but I think they understood and accepted my decision. They wished me success in this challenge that I imposed on myself. The decision was very difficult to make, I had a great connection with them and with everyone at the club, but it was the right moment.”

Meanwhile Munster have lost another member of their coaching set-up with the departure of Aled Walters. Having been with Munster for over five years, Walters is set to reunite with Rassie Erasmus in South Africa and will take charge of the national team's strength and conditioning programme. The Welsh native has worked across the Munster Rugby strength and conditioning department since 2012 and had previously worked in Super Rugby with the Brumbies and in New Zealand with Taranaki.

The squad were informed of Walters' departure in December and he is the latest loss to the province's backroom staff following defence coach Jacques Nienaber and Erasmus' decision to leave.

Johann van Graan took charge of Munster in December but the loss of Walters will be seen as a blow, given his popularity among the squad. During his tenure, Walters worked under Rob Penney, Anthony Foley, Erasmus and van Graan, and most recently held the position of head of athletic performance. He will leave in March.

Team Manager Niall O’Donovan said: “Aled has been an integral member of this backroom team for the past number of seasons, and oversees a great strength and conditioning department here within the High Performance Centre where our programmes and processes are well established. We thank Aled for his contribution on and off the field, wishing him all the best with the next chapter.”

Meanwhile, ahead of their European tie with Racing 92 on Sunday, the province has been boosted with the news that South African second row Gerbrandt Grobler returned to full training this week. Grobler joined Munster from Racing in the summer but was forced to undergo ankle surgery after suffering an injury in a pre-season tie against Worcester Warriors.

Billy Holland and openside flanker Chris Cloete are both following return to play protocols after the duo received knocks in Pro14 action against Ulster on New Year's Day.

Elsewhere, Conor Oliver, Chris Farrell and Rhys Marshall suffered no ill effects on their return to action against Connacht last Saturday night while Calvin Nash (hip), Niall Scannell (ribs) and Tommy O’Donnell (shoulder) are all continuing to rehab as well as Tyler Bleyendaal (neck) and Jaco Taute (knee).

A win over Racing, who are enjoying a good run of form, would ensure Munster's progress to the knock-out stages of the Cup as Pool 4 winners but they will need a bonus point to stay top. Kick-off in the new U Arena in Paris is at 3.15pm Irish time.

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