Simon Zebo returns to Ireland fold for Autumn Internationals
SIMON Zebo has returned to the Ireland set-up following a four-year absence after head coach Andy Farrell named him in his 38-man squad for the Autumn Nations Series.
The 31-year-old departed Racing 92 in the summer to rejoin Munster and is immediately recalled having been left out of the summer internationals while he competed in the Top 14 play-offs.
Ireland captain Jonny Sexton is also back after he was rested for the wins over Japan and the United States in July and is primed to earn his 100th cap in the Test with Japan at the Aviva Stadium on November 6.
Six of the country's British and Irish Lions for the tour of South Africa return to the squad with Tadhg Beirne, Tadhg Furlong, Jack Conan, Iain Henderson, Conor Murray and Bundee Aki set to feature in the matches with Japan, New Zealand (November 13) and Argentina (November 21).
Robbie Henshaw is recovering from a foot injury and is not named in the squad but will continue his rehabilitation under the supervision of the Irish medical team.
Leinster duo Dan Sheehan and Ciaran Frawley are the two uncapped players in the group while six of the players who won their first caps in the summer internationals - Robert Baloucoune, Harry Byrne, Gavin Coombes, James Hume, Tom O'Toole and Nick Timoney - are retained.
Munster's Thomas Ahern and Jamie Osborne of Leinster will train with the squad as development players with the Aviva Stadium set to be at full capacity for the three games.
Head coach Farrell said: "It has been a short lead into this international window but that is the challenge, to get back up to speed quickly and build on the performances from the Six Nations and the summer Tests.
"This is the start of an exciting period for the group as we begin to build towards the Rugby World Cup in France.
"In September we got together and mapped out what was coming up in this window, the exciting fixtures that lay ahead in the next 12 months and beyond that the opportunities to improve as a group over the next five windows we will have together.
"In a few weeks' time we will face an exciting and well-coached Japan team who showed in July what a dangerous team they are.
"New Zealand dominated the Rugby Championship losing just one game while Argentina are battle hardened from playing the southern hemisphere's big three week in, week out over the past two months.
"It would be fantastic to play in front of a full-house at the Aviva Stadium. We had small crowds back in for the games in July and even that made a huge difference to the team and the atmosphere in the stadium."