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'Dashing back' Zebo catches Kiwi attention

IT is a well-worn routine ahead of Ireland-New Zealand Test matches. The All Blacks, courteous to a fault, do their best to show the opposition the required amounts of respect but are rarely able to stray far beyond the stereotypes along with token praise for Ireland's most renowned player, Brian O'Driscoll.

"Yeah, I've seen him play a bit," said star centre Sonny Bill Williams, "he's very classy, a big challenge for us."

Fair enough -- so far, so expected -- so it was refreshing to hear was the Kiwi media quiz Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss at yesterday's press conference about one of the younger members of the Ireland squad, who they felt "really stood out" at yesterday's training session.

The source of their interest? Flying winger Simon Zebo, whose rapid rise to prominence this season is in keeping with the pace that garnered the attention of the notoriously hard-to-impress locals.

A special section of TV1's night-time sports news was devoted to the "dashing back", with pointed reference given to the influence of former All Blacks winger Doug Howlett has had on Zebo at Munster.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen was relying on more traditional -- damning with faint praise -- summations.

"The Irish are what they are -- they are a very passionate, combative people."

That's us, the Fighting Irish, to be sure, to be sure.

Irish Independent