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Flying machine Zebo set to soar in wales

IT IS official. Simon Zebo is the fastest thing on two legs in Irish rugby.

He has recorded the quickest time over ten metres in the professional era, faster than Craig Gilroy, faster than Keith Earls, faster than Denis Hickie.

"All I know is my GPS recorded the fastest ever time," he said, matter-of-factly.

"It was 9.4 metres per second, but I was carrying the ball. Earlsy came pretty close to it as well, so I'd have to do it without the ball and see how fast I go," he said.

The man from Cork is part Irish, part French. His father Arthur, a former 800m international runner, comes from the Gallic regional island of Martinique in the eastern Caribbean.

There is something relaxed about the Munster and Ireland flying machine. He freely talks about the absence of nerves or fear in the build-up to big matches.

He is often too busy busting out the dance moves that captain Jamie Heaslip humorously spoke about yesterday, reflecting the fancy footwork Zebo has been showing on the field of play lately.

This is no one-trick pony express. Zebo had enough football to already play twice at full-back for Ireland against New Zealand and South Africa. It was a baptism of fire.

"Yeah, there was a fair amount of pressure but it was brilliant. The first one was against the best team in the world and the second against the second best.


"It was great to start off with such great opposition so that you can really test yourself as a player. Playing full-back was something I'll never forget. It was great."

The return from injury of the ever-present Rob Kearney has seen Zebo relocate to the wing where he loves being given licence to roam in-field and pick off large, lumbering forwards.

Zebo has been to the Millennium Stadium just once in his life. It was the 2006 Heineken Cup final when Munster reached the Promised Land and when he was turning 16 years of age.

The time has flown by, like he does to defenders, as he and Craig Gilroy contemplate taking on Wales strongmen George North and Alex Cuthbert in Cardiff on Saturday.

"Erm, I suppose Wales are a very strong outfit and they've got some really big, physical players but they've other attributes as well," he said.

"At any level, you'd be coming up against great opposition and the calibre of what they've got in their backline is going to test us and, hopefully, we'll be up for the challenge and we'll have a good performance."

Zebo will also hope to be released by the 34-year-old wizard on his inside shoulder, former captain Brian O'Driscoll: "Yeah, he's unbelievable. He's just so knowledgeable about the game.

Skill set

"His skill set is just crazy, you know, he's been a dream to work with. It would be great to have another few games together."

It is also likely. Meanwhile, Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony will certainly take a positive attitude into the Six Nations, haivng just signed a two-year contract with the IRFU.

"Peter O'Mahony is one of the new generation of players that are continuing to emerge from the development pathways in Irish Rugby," said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne.

"At this point in a young player's career, it is so important for both Munster and Irish Rugby to be able to continue to have a positive input into that development.

"The policy for Irish Rugby will be to continue to strive to keep all of our top players here in Ireland playing for our provincial teams."