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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Simon Zebo: I won't change my game

The half-French Irish wing will continue to play the flair game under Schmidt

Ireland's Simon Zebo
Ireland's Simon Zebo

SIMON ZEBO will not always curb his enthusiasm for the extravagant.

But, sometimes, his instincts can get him into trouble as often as they can take him away from it.

It was all encapsulated in that moment back in November. You know the one. Ireland were in cruise control at 17-0 against Australia.

Zebo had already plucked his fifth try in 11 internationals from Jonathan Sexton's beautifully weighted kick to out-speed Nick Phipps.

The Munster wing found an outside shoulder and looked to slip the offload to Sexton.

It was foiled by the quick-thinking of Bernard Foley for a counter which ended in the start of the Wallabies comeback.

Was it really on? "Do you know it was on 'cos there was a dogleg in the defence," he said.

"I spotted Foley come up out of the line and then there was space for Johnny but he (Foley) is a very clever player.

"A lot of other players would have just stayed and looked at Johnny but, in fairness to him, he turned straight away and looked to slap it back.

"Not many players would have that quick thinking. It was good defence, I suppose, but I continue to try these things if I see the opportunities."

And there you have it.

CONJURER

The magician does not give up on the life of a conjurer because it doesn't always work out.

But, you just knew the patience of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt would have been tested to the limit by the unnecessary, high-risk pass rather than gradually building pressure.

What did Zebo think as Phipps took the ball to the house? "I was thinking thank God there's not another game 'cos I'll be dropped," he joked.

"No, no. I don't think of those things at all.

"You don't have time to think like that on the pitch. You have to go on your instincts. That's what I did," added Zebo.

"I like offloading the ball and creating opportunities for other players as well.

"I think I'm quite good at it except it just didn't work out on that one occasion."

Zebo has had to tidy up the finer details of his game to become first choice for Ireland, his accuracy at the breakdown, his technique under the high ball, "not being sloppy, having more bite in the tackle".

He will want to be on his game on Saturday as French family members from Toulouse and Paris will make their way to The Aviva Stadium where he hopes to disappoint his father, a dyed in the wool beret and blue jersey wearing supporter of Les Bleus.

What about the French themselves?

"I think they got slated a little bit for not performing too well recently but they are such a dangerous side and even when they are playing bad they can pull out moments of magic.

"They are going to be out to get us after last year and we're just going to have to be on top of our game to compete."

There have been many column inches taken up with how France's previous coaches Bernard Laporte and Marc Lievremont and the incubent Philippe Saint-Andre have taken them away from their natural game.

They may still have Yoann Huget and Teddy Thomas on the wings, players who can excite and thrill with one burst of pace.

"They just look to continue to play all the time. You think they are running down a blind alley and they are not, the ball is slipped in around the back door into someone else and the game is continued.

"They bring a lot of flair and offloading ability and deadly finishing, all in one. They are a dangerous combination."

This is strange. It is almost exactly how the outside world views Zebo too.

He cites Christophe Dominici as someone who always entertained and Huget as a modern day wing with "everything" you would want.

"I suppose I'm probably a little different to the stereotypical Irish winger. I don't know how to put it," he said.

"I suppose I have French blood in me and I have always admired the way they play. I'm half-French so it's a little different to answer, but yeah the way I describe the French wingers is the way I try to play my rugby."

Bravo.

 

I think they got slated a little bit for not performing too well recently but they are such a dangerous side

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