Simon Zebo: If Andy Farrell gives me a call I’d look at coming back

Simon also says Joe Schmidt didn't take enough risks - and that Ireland failed to evolve over the last year.

Andy Farrell Joe Schmidt Simon Zebo


New Zealand were just better

New Zealand were the better team last Saturday and they showed their form was superior to Ireland’s. It’s a tough one to take for those involved with Irish rugby but we were beaten by a better outfit.

The All Blacks had a two-week lead-in to prepare for the quarter-final, but they would have beaten us anyway. Sometimes a long run-up or period of time off before a match can be a disadvantage, but they had been displaying some really good form and their players were at the top of their game.

They looked fresh and they played a nice style of rugby that involved the whole team and a host of threats across the park. Ireland could have put in a better performance but knockout rugby doesn’t give you a second chance.

aaron smith steve hansen

New Zealand evolved since last November – Ireland didn’t

The man in charge of Ireland’s style of play is Joe Schmidt – all of the players in the squad have bought into the system and it has been very successful for Ireland.

But you can see clearly how the likes of New Zealand, England and Japan have evolved their game, especially considering where Japan have come from – to be able to execute that level of skill and speed of play is remarkable. Ireland haven’t made the same adjustments or improvements as those teams.

It was worrying that in a World Cup, where you’re supposed to be firing on all cylinders, it just didn’t happen for us. It’s very disappointing but we haven’t changed an awful lot and that probably hurt us.

Joe Schmidt didn’t take enough risks

Personally, I would have liked to see more risks taken with team selection and in Ireland’s gameplan. I’d favour a different way of playing the game to what we’ve seen from Ireland recently – but that’s just me.

Regarding selection, I found it very disappointing. It seems like the players who were in form weren’t playing – you look at Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, to name just a few. There were several players playing the best rugby of their careers not getting picked and it was unfortunate to see that happen again.

This was borne out by the results, considering the players above weren’t involved. It’s not the sole reason why Ireland went out but not having the form players on the pitch certainly contributed – it’s partly why we ended up with a quarter-final against New Zealand in the first place!

The players looked tired as well. They didn’t have any spark and weren’t bouncing off the walls like other teams. You wonder how tough the pre-season was and whether or not the team got it right from a strength-and-conditioning point-of-view. There were probably a lot of factors that led to this result.

What needs to change in the future?

The players are there. There’s great quality of player in Ireland.

Andy Farrell is an extremely smart coach and he knows exactly how to push certain buttons. He’ll change a few things and he has Mike Catt coming in as an attack coach, so Ireland’s game will definitely evolve with some fresh ideas.

Andy will be able to build on this World Cup and get a successful period going with himself at the core of it looking forward to France 2023.

I’m enjoying my rugby in France but I’d definitely pick up the phone to Andy if I got a call

As for where I stand now Joe has departed, I haven’t been in contact with anyone in the Irish setup really. Our season at Racing is just getting into gear and the World Cup will be fresh in everyone’s mind there.

If something happens in the future, great. If it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world – I’m happy playing my rugby here in France.

But I have a very good relationship with Andy. He might have a different view on players playing abroad than Joe and if he decides to give me a call I would of course look at coming back and being available for selection.

It’ll be interesting to see but for the moment I’m just enjoying my rugby and my life over here.

New Zealand are 4/5 favourites to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup

What do you think?