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Coaching Input Has Helped Zebo’s ‘All-Round Performance’

Coaching Input Has Helped Zebo’s ‘All-Round Performance’

Simon Zebo and Mike Ross are the only two players to have been retained in the Ireland starting line-up throughout this month’s three-match GUINNESS Series.

Having played the full 80 minutes against South Africa, winger Simon Zebo went on to score a try against Georgia – his fourth in 10 Test appearances – and will face Australia tomorrow for the first time in his career.

This will be his fifth successive start under Joe Schmidt, a ‘great coach’, in Zebo’s words, who has developed a fierce competition for places that has inspired the Munster flyer to become ‘a better player’.

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“It’s benefiting the team that there’s massive competition for places, and it’s great for us as a squad. Hopefully we can keep putting in big performances because we’ll need one this weekend,” insisted the 24-year-old.

“The big games are the ones you want to play in and I suppose the big games bring out…well, the best players play and perform in the big games.

“Everybody’s vying to play well and we need to put in a big performance to get the win and we’ll have to be firing trom the start to get the win.

“I’ve just got to relish every chance I get and keep trying to perform for the squad and if my performances keep going the way I want them to go then hopefully I’ll keep getting the chances to play.”

The Corkman was on the outside looking in for a while – there was a year-long gap between his sixth and seventh Ireland caps – but he is not overly concerned about nailing down a starting spot for the Six Nations. The collective is his priority right now, as they aim to finish the series with a second southern Hemisphere scalp.

“This game ahead of us is massively important. We all know what we need to do and that’s to perform from the start. But I think the Six nations will take care of itself. There’ll be a lot of issues with form provincially and stuff like that so that’s not really a concern at the moment.

“All we’re thinking about is putting in a massive performance against Australia and each individual will have to be on point, because they’re such a classy side.”

He added: “To be honest, I wouldn’t say I was left out in the cold. I broke my foot (in October of last year) and was out for four months, so I wouldn’t have expected to jump back into any side like that.

“I’m just focusing on the smaller details of my game. Joe has been great and Axel (Anthony Foley) been great and they’ve really made me see another side to the game and that’s helped my all-round performance.”

While he admits Michael Cheika’s spell coaching Leinster was a bit before his time, he is relishing the challenge which the attacking style of the Wallabies will pose tomorrow.

Last year’s 17-point defeat in the second game of the GUINNESS Series is in the mind of Zebo who feels that four-try performance shows how dangerous the Australia can be.

“They can attack us from anywhere. And you can see the form they’re in, especially the likes of (Israel) Folau, (Quade) Cooper and (Bernard) Foley with talent pouring out of them.

“We’re going to have to be nailed on because one bad pass, one ball hits the floor or anything like that and they’ll go 80 yards and score a try. It just reinforces how dangerous they are and how accurate we’re going to have to be.”

Speaking about out-halves Foley and Cooper, he admitted: “They’re both very talented and they can both kick a ball anywhere at any time. They’ve caught out a fair few wingers on their day.

“Quade’s very dangerous and likes to attack the gain-line. He has both, the threat of the running game…they both do really, to be honest. They’re both unbelievably talented. We just know that the back-three will be in for a tough day if we’re not switched on.”