Zebo up for French battle

2015-10-07 09:34
Simon Zebo (Getty Images)

Newport - Ireland's Simon Zebo would be delighted to exhibit his extensive box of rugby tricks in the World Cup pool decider with France, the country he regards as his second home.

The 25-year-old's father, Arthur, is from the French Caribbean island of Martinique and he says it is through him he has developed into an exciting rugby talent.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has tried to temper Zebo's artistry into a more team-oriented player. He scored an outrageous try against Wales in the 2013 Six Nations tournament, the last one before Schmidt took over, flicking a poor pass up from his boot into his hands to touch down.

And the spark is still there. Had his try against Romania stood it would have been one of the contenders for the try of the tournament. It was disallowed for a foot in touch.

Zebo, who sped back to Ireland last week to attend his maternal grandfather's funeral, is relieved that Sunday's Pool D decider at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium is not his first against France.

"I've played against France before so the surprise element to it is gone, and my family is the same, it's not as special as it was the first time," said Zebo.

"However, if selected it would be a great occasion to play against my second country."

Zebo, who plays for Irish province Munster with Irish team-mates Keith Earls and scrum-half Conor Murray, said he was not looking to show off on the pitch as some have criticised him for.

"I'd say my background does come into my style of play. My family would be very expressive, and I think you can see it in my personality and my character that I play the way I am behind closed doors.

"So I just go out, try to enjoy myself and execute the skills to try to help the team."

Zebo, who according to one of his former teachers is a huge loss to his native County Cork and their hurling team, turned down French requests to speak in their maternal tongue as he did not think his skills are good enough.

However, he said he understands it well enough that if he is close enough to their players on Sunday he will relay what they are saying back to his team-mates.

"No it's not big enough!" he grinned referring to the match not being important enough for him to try and answer in French.

"The more time I spend there, if I was there for a couple of weeks I'd be pretty fluent.

"If a couple of calls (from the French players) came my way I'd be more than happy to do that, but I have to be on the pitch first."

Zebo said he believed his father - who would have competed for France in the 800 metres at the 1976 Olympics but for breaking his leg - would be dressed in green on Sunday.

"I haven't spoken to him much, but I think my dad will have his Irish jersey on this weekend."

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