'I didn't think it would be picked up in such a cynical manner' - Simon Zebo hits back at 'ageism' accusations
Simon Zebo has hit back against claims that he was 'ageist' in his description of the man who racially abused him at the Kingspan Stadium earlier this month.
The accusations were made by Northern Ireland Assembly member Mike Nesbitt, who equated the racial abuse to ageism.
"First and foremost Simon Zebo should not have been abused by the Ulster fan who shouted something inappropriate - but Zebo shouldn’t describe him as "an elderly man, like 40 plus". Ageism, racism, both wrong," Nesbitt wrote on Twitter.
Ulster have since handed out a life-time ban to the individual who abused Zebo during Ulster's recent Champions Cup win over Racing 92.
"I think that's pretty silly, they're worlds apart," Zebo said in Dublin this morning.
"It's negative and it got enough attention throughout the week after the event, so only positive things from now on.
"I wouldn't take too much notice of what that fella said. I think he got enough of a backlash off that so there is no need for me to stick it to him anymore.
"But sometimes, you just just have to think before... I didn't mean any harm by what I was trying to say.
"I was trying to describe something that was an emotional topic so if I didn't convey my words in the correct way, I didn't think it would be picked up in such a cynical manner but each to their own. He's old enough to take the consequences of that."
Zebo commended Ulster's swift action in identifying the alleged offender and consequently handing out the life-time ban.
"Yeah, it was great," the Cork native continued.
"Fair play to Ulster and their CEO (Jonny Petrie), they were very, very positive and forthcoming in trying to help as much as they could.
"It was a pretty shitty thing to happen but that's life. Those things do happen. Ulster were very good, the EPCR were very good and everyone at Racing was class.
"It's good to be able to put it behind me knowing that there was a positive outcome, your man getting banned for life, has happened off the back of it. Hopefully, it doesn't happen again.
"It wasn't the nicest welcome home. There was a lot of slagging throughout the game but it was funny. I love that.
"It makes you want to go out and make you play better. It's back and forth with the fans. It was just marred by that one incident.”
On the pitch, Zebo is in impressive try-scoring form with Racing as he and his young family have settled in well in Paris.
The former Munster player admitted that he has been given more of a licence to play heads up rugby with the Top 14 side, but he is well aware that he remains firmly out of the international picture in Joe Schmidt's mind.
"The mindset is just a little bit different in how to approach the game," Zebo added.
"There is definitely a bit more freedom for the likes of myself and Finn (Russell) and all the other dangerous backs that we have.
"It's very much play what you see and risk and reward so they're happy with it.
"I'm enjoying it. I've had a good run of games and I've scored a few tries. I'm linking up well with Finn and the other backs that we have there.
"There are a lot of threats in the team. 1 to 23, there are threats all over the park so you really feel like there are a lot of one-on-one opportunities or teams can't double up on you or close you down too early because there are so many threats elsewhere.
"It's been really enjoyable. We have a very talented team, so when we do click, it's pretty hard to stop."
Simon Zebo was speaking at the launch of his new Six Nations ambassador role with Paddy Power.
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