Tuesday 20 March 2018

Munster are very close to ripping a team apart, insists Simon Zebo

Simon Zebo practising his skills at training in Cork IT yesterday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Simon Zebo practising his skills at training in Cork IT yesterday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

An old familiar, friendly face can often lift the mood of a sullen camp so when Ronan O'Gara jumped out of a car as the Munster players trudged their way back to the dressing rooms yesterday, there was a noticeable change as the pleasantries were exchanged.

O'Gara was in Cork IT promoting the work done by Crumlin Children's Hospital but one couldn't help but wonder how long it will be before he becomes a common face around Munster training.

Four defeats on the bounce has Munster and indeed Anthony Foley under severe pressure heading into Sunday's meeting with Leinster.

Simon Zebo isn't a man who feels the pressure, at least not externally anyway, but off the pitch he still has his own issues to sort out.

With the Cork native in the final year of his contract, negotiations have been ongoing for quite some time now but he insisted that he has still yet to make a decision regarding his future, despite being heavily linked with a move to France.

"I just want to make sure it's the best choice for me whichever thing happens. It's something I'll take time with to decide," Zebo said.

"It's still quite slow at the moment so there hasn't been much change. The closer I come to a decision it should be much clearer what way I'll go. I don't want to be rushed into anything.

"I wouldn't take on too much stress. I can just park it. I'm pretty comfortable to let the people working for me sort that stuff out and let me focus on the rugby. Whichever decision is best for me and my family that's the decision I'll make."

Zebo may not be feeling the heat off the pitch but on it his side are in desperate need of a win over their old foes on home turf.

Leinster though have had plenty of problems of their own this season and although Munster say that 22,000 tickets have been sold, the fixture wouldn't appear to have the same allure that it had in years gone by.

"Both teams need to get some winning momentum. We're on the back of a couple of losses. It's not easy to take on both sides," Zebo insisted.

"People have been criticising us but I think we're one pass or one offload away from ripping a team apart. I think it's going to click some time very soon, and hopefully it can be this weekend.


"Four successive losses for Munster is pretty much unacceptable, it's unheard of really so we need to get the pride back in the jersey and there's no better fixture to do it than against the boys from Leinster.

"Everybody is hugely excited even though early on in the week everybody was a bit down, but everybody is excited about the challenge ahead and I think we can pick up the 'W' if we click.

"We're making the line-breaks; (we're) just a half a yard too slow or an offload is an inch too low. I think once these finer details get ironed out, we'll turn into a well-oiled machine."

With an Ireland camp just around the corner, Zebo will again look to further his case to Joe Schmidt and although he was adamant that it doesn't come into his mindset, it's difficult not to imagine him wanting to get one over on the rivals whom he is vying with for a slot in the national side.

There's been a lot of soul-searching down south as there has been in Leinster over the last couple of weeks and Zebo maintained that a win over the Blues is still as precious as ever.

"There's a bit of bite (in training). People are frustrated as you can imagine. I think the staff have showed enough of their frustration to the side and now it's up to us to go out and fix that because we're the ones out there on the pitch playing the games.

"I think there's only so much hitting with a stick one can take so we have to get a result now at whatever cost.

"I don't think it could ever be more important one year and less important another year. It's one of the biggest rivalries in rugby. Collectively obviously when we're in Irish camp we're all like brothers and friends but it's the polar opposite when we're with our provinces.

"I think the win is massively important to each side. To lose to them in Thomond Park would be unacceptable and that would go along with four other unacceptable performances that we've had so we can't afford them so we need to get the win this weekend."

There's been a lot of aspects of Munster's play that have been 'unacceptable' in recent weeks and on Sunday they will get the chance to right some of those wrongs as they bid to kick-start their season.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport