Winger Simon Zebo has warned that Ireland cannot afford to let their performance levels drop against Wales next week given the quality that Warren Gatland’s men possess.
Simon Zebo rates Wales highly and was impressed by their 20-13 win over France in France, which keeps them in the RBS 6 Nations title race after a losing start against England.
The Welsh have threats across the park and while Zebo spoke after the England game of his admiration for half-backs Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray, he admits their Welsh rivals Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb are also a class act.
“Wales looked good (against France). They are a very good side. They have proven it. They won the Championship a number of times. They’re dangerous and have got dangerous backs. We just have to nullify them if we are going to come out on the better end of the scoreboard,” he said.
“(France nullified their threat) at times, but Wales got momentum in crucial parts of the game. Dan Biggar’s try proved vital. It’s pretty hard to come back from that. It was probably 50-50 up until then. Two dangerous players, Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb, causing trouble. They are two players we will definitely have to shut down.”
The Ireland squad’s open training session at Kingspan Stadium yesterday brought a two-day camp to an end, with the players given time off over the weekend. They will come back together on Sunday ahead of the round 4 clash at the Millennium Stadium, and preparations for Wales have already begun.
The detail will increase next week but Zebo added that knowing what they are up against and performing against Wales are two different things. Asked whether or not the directness of the Welsh team would make it easier for him, he gave a compelling argument, stating that was not the case.
“Not necessarily. If you think they are going to go direct, they will ship it out the back to Liam Williams or George North who have serious feet as well as power. You can’t set anything in stone and predict they are going to be really direct against us. We are going to have to be prepared for anything.
“They are a deadly side. They can beat anyone. We know how tough the task is going to be and we know how dangerous they are. We will just have to rest the bodies after a tough encounter against England and hopefully be raring to go from minute one, next week.”
He added: “This Welsh team are their own team. Ninety percent of them were probably on the Lions tour. They have won back-to-back Championships (in 2012 and 2013). They are a proven side.
“Going over to their home in this tournament where they have already lost (to England) is going to be a tough task because they are not going to want to lose again. We’re going to have to perform to the best of our ability to win.”
In Ireland’s last eight games, Zebo has only failed to complete 80 minutes once, playing for just over an hour against Georgia in November when he scored his fourth Test try.
The Corkman has failed to get his hands on the ball in attacking situations as often as he would have liked in recent games. But he has been influential in other areas, particularly in the air against England where his restart and kick chase work was excellent, while his turnover tackle on Anthony Watson was an important moment in the lead up to Robbie Henshaw’s try.
Asked about his lack of attacking opportunities so far in the Championship, he said: “I try as much as possible (to get more ball). If the game is going that way where I can get in a little bit then I will, but the games just haven’t gone that way. There is only so much that you can do. You’ve got to hold your width and got to help the team basically. You can’t be just being too selfish and coming in for no reason.
“If Wales decide to open up the game and throw it around, I might get a few more touches. But the way things are going I’m pretty happy regardless of getting limited ball. It’s all about winning and we are doing that so far. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”