Saturday 14 December 2019

Tony Ward: Zebo and Walcott prove flair remains priceless

Tony Ward

Tony Ward

As both of my fellow travellers (and one in particular) were dyed-in-the-wool 'Gooners', the journey back from Limerick (given Arsenal's 7-3 victory over wee Newcastle) was tough to say the least.

For those who may not know, that former doyen of rugby journalists, Ned van Esbeck, is one Arsenal fan who delights on Munster and Arsenal doubles. His passion overfloweth on days like that.

Watching the highlights later on, the performance of Theo Walcott was of course the stand-out, and in a way it reminded me of Simon Zebo.

The Munster back-three utility player is still learning his trade but what I like more than anything is his willingness to give it a go and run at defenders, causing confusion in otherwise well-organised defences.

The game has become very regimented in terms of structures and systems but there is still room for innovation, for those prepared to give it a lash. The best coaches are those who provide free rein and encourage freedom of expression without deviating too much from the collective plan. For this, and the Munster work still in progress, Rob Penney deserves much credit.

And one final point on Walcott. Before his mazy hat-trick goal, instead of heading for the corner flag, and riling the already beaten opposition by running down the clock, the brilliant forward acted instinctively in doing what he does most naturally.

Therein lies the parallel with the still-emerging Zebo ... long may it continue.

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