'Thank Celtic Tiger for Zebo and Gilroy'
Published 08/02/2013 | 19:38
IRELAND coach Declan Kidney suspects the nerveless temperaments of precocious wings Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy are the product of the country's 'Celtic Tiger' economic boom.
Zebo and Gilroy have been retained amid an unchanged 23 for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations clash with England at the Aviva Stadium, generating enormous excitement among expectant Irish fans.
A sensational back-heel on the run that rescued a poor pass and enabled Cian Healy to score his team's second try in last weekend's 30-22 victory over Wales has transformed Zebo, 22, into a household name throughout Ireland.
The right wing is occupied by Gilroy, 21, a player who was propelled into contention for the Lions tour to Australia this summer on account of an outstanding debut against Argentina in November.
Kidney believes Ireland's unprecedented economic growth between 1995 and 2008 has shaped their attitudes and confidence.
"Whatever happened to that particular generation of 21 or 22, they were born fairly cool," he said.
"It must be something to do with the Celtic Tiger - nothing fazes them. Simon's pretty glad that (fly-half) Paddy Jackson has an injury because he was losing the rap-offs (the inter-squad rapping contests).
"Craig isn't too far behind either - there are a few smoothies there. There's a good mix - some of the fellas who aren't the same age are able to mix it with them.
"What's pleased me about these guys is the way they've separated work from the craic."
Brian O'Driscoll was named man of the match for his virtuoso display in Cardiff, but he had to share top billing with Zebo and his footwork.
While Kidney has been pleased by the Munster wing's attitude to the attention that has ensued, he reminded him that he has only won four caps and must continue delivering.
"Simon's dealing with it very well, he's just getting on with his job. There hasn't been any difference in him," he said.
"It's one of the challenges for a young player who's had a good game or two, because that's what it is.
"If he has a good head on his shoulders he'll be thinking 'I've only had one or two good games, so let me get a dozen or so of those under my belt and then maybe I can talk'. Simon knows he has a few other things to work on."
Jamie Heaslip, who captains Ireland in the Six Nations for a second time, insists the colour brought to the squad by Zebo and Gilroy has lifted everyone.
"I question some of Simon's dance moves and taste in music, but you can't ask any more from him in terms of being a professional," Heaslip said.
"Simon and Craig definitely have that young exuberance about them and are characters in different ways. They're great squad men and great to be around.
"They're playing some good rugby and that's on the back of a lot of work done during the week."
Kidney was able to name an unchanged starting XV against England after centre Gordon D'Arcy and flanker Peter O'Mahony were passed fit.
D'Arcy has recovered from the dead leg he sustained against Wales, while O'Mahony has been given the all-clear after suffering concussion in the same match.
An attritional championship opener at the Millennium Stadium also saw centre O'Driscoll, flanker Sean O'Brien, full-back Rob Kearney and prop Mike Ross incur knocks that have cleared up during the week.
Substitute centre Keith Earls takes his place on an unchanged bench after damaging his shoulder against Wales.
"The players have recovered pretty well from the Wales game. We took 48 hours off after the match and have toned down training since," Kidney said.
"Gordon, Peter and Sean all trained fully this morning so we don't envisage there being any changes."