independent

Monday 21 April 2014

It doesn't bother me if I'm a marked man, insists Zebo

Simon Zebo

Last year was a real rollercoaster of a season for Simon Zebo and he is determined to make this one even better.

After stunning the rugby world with his first Six Nations try against Wales in Cardiff, he had the frustration of breaking his foot in the early stages of Ireland's defeat to England the following week.

The highlight of his Munster season last year against Harlequins was quickly followed by the despair of defeat to Clermont in the Heineken Cup semi-final. And then a call-up to the Lions squad followed to end a remarkable season for the 23-year-old.

Now, with that experience in the bag, the Cork flier is determined to put lessons learned to good use for Munster and Ireland this season, starting with Edinburgh tomorrow.

It's hard to believe it was only at the beginning of last year that Zebo ripped Northampton to pieces with a blistering hat-trick in the Heineken Cup. He was the youngster of the team at that stage, but already he has amassed 20 Munster tries.

Like his Lions team-mates Paul O'Connell and Conor Murray, Zebo was forced to watch the opening acts of Munster's campaign this season from the sidelines. But with three games under his belt now – including last Saturday's derby win over Leinster – he thinks management has timed his return to the side to perfection.

"I'm pretty happy with my own form, I feel like it's getting there. I started off the season a little slower than I had hoped but my performances have improved in each game and I can find myself getting better the more I play," he said.

"I'm not too far off now, I'm feeling fresh and all I want now is a little ball to come my way and I'll be happy out."

Any win the week before a Heineken Cup game is satisfying, but to beat Leinster gives that extra degree of bounce to everyone's step.

"We seem to be building up a bit of momentum at the perfect time. We have a couple of really tough weeks ahead so we just need to carry the confidence into Edinburgh," said Zebo.

"I'd be expecting them to come out all guns blazing against us, they are a quality side."

Zebo's form for Munster since he made the breakthrough has meant that teams work on plans to combat him, but it doesn't concern him.

"I don't know if I'm a marked man or not, but it doesn't really bother me if I am. If teams are over-analysing what I do, if they want to double mark me, it just means that there is going to be more space to play in for Earlsey, Casey and any of those guys. As long as one of us is ripping it up I'm happy."

The loss to Clermont in last season's Heineken Cup semi-final is something that he looks back on with regret, but he is determined to set things right.

"Definitely, there was a feeling of unfinished business. The Clermont game was tough, really tough for us all," he said. "They're one of the best teams in Europe but we still went over there with the ambitions of winning and getting to the final in Dublin.

"But it wasn't to be, and this year the goal is for us to go one or two steps further and win the competition."

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