Saturday 16 November 2019

'Gutted' Zebo ready to fire Munster into life

A dejected Simon Zebo after the final whistle against Ospreys. Photo: Sportsfile
A dejected Simon Zebo after the final whistle against Ospreys. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Munster have been forewarned as to what is required of them in next Sunday's must-win Heineken Cup clash against Edinburgh at Thomond Park.

The confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's withdrawal with a hamstring injury accelerates the promotion of Ian Keatley to the pivotal position in Rob Penney's slow evolution of a novel game plan at Munster.

With Denis Hurley likely to return at full-back, Keith Earls' continuing absence with a groin strain will also see James Downey and Casey Laulala get another chance to offer the control and precision so lacking in last Saturday's fitful display in defeat to Racing Metro.

Paul O'Connell's fitness is an encouragement but Munster will require more from their pack, who so often toiled in the loose exchanges, to provide Keatley and out-of-sorts scrum-half Conor Murray with an adequate platform.

The news on the other Munster walking wounded was mixed after yesterday's first training session since the opening-day defeat, when Penney's side twice conspired to toss away winning positions.

Donncha O'Callaghan is reported to be progressing well in his recovery from the hamstring strain he sustained in the Leinster game, but he will need to come through training this week before a decision can be made on his participation, while the same can be said for Niall Ronan (groin).

Further good news from the weekend matches is that Felix Jones took a full part in the British and Irish Cup victory over Plymouth Albion and could be in the mix for the Edinburgh game. Ian Nagle also made a return to action in England on Saturday.

Two others who will come into Penney's consideration are Luke O'Dea and Johne Murphy; the latter travelled to Paris as back-up at the weekend while O'Dea has recovered from a bout of illness which forced him to miss out in recent weeks.

The injured James Coughlan (groin), Ivan Dineen (groin), Wian du Preez (knee), Keith Earls (groin) and Sean Scanlon (back) are all continuing with their rehabilitation.

Although Murray's recidivism struck despair into the hearts of those few hundred Munster supporters who travelled to France, winger Simon Zebo (left) underscored his importance to the side with a stunning late try.

"It was on the back of a great team effort," said Zebo, surely now a contender to start the November Internationals for Ireland.

"The boys put it in and fought until the very end and we are just gutted we couldn't come out with the result. Nothing special really happened for the try. Dougie Howlett caught the ball and gave it to Ian and they were just screaming 'run', so I took off.

"There was great pressure from the lads and we didn't give up until the final minute. I am gutted personally and for the lads. I thought we deserved more. The opening 20 minutes I thought we were going very well and things were looking promising, but silly errors cost us.

"The bonus (point) isn't really any consolation for us, not at the moment. We are too gutted at the moment to be thinking about that.

"There is always room for improvement. I don't think there is any such thing as the world's perfect player so I am constantly looking to improve and get better. I wouldn't really change too much to suit other teams, whether I would be known or unknown. I just want to go out and do my best for the team. That's what I will be trying to do.

"What we're doing at the moment does suit my style of rugby but that goes for every other back on the field as well because everyone seems to be getting their hands on the ball, the forwards included.

"It's something we have been capable of doing in the past but just haven't, so it is not completely alien to us. Everyone seems to be enjoying it and getting their touches on the ball.

"There were times in the past when you would be waiting 15-20 minutes to get your touch on the ball."

Irish Independent

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