Zebo is wary of wounded Tigers

Zebo is wary of wounded Tigers
Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

THE winning margin was small last year at Welford Road but how it happened was a stern lesson for Munster.

A late penalty showed the Tigers’ bite and it was a lesson that Simon Zebo and his team-mates will keep in the back of their minds when they go head to head again tomorrow.

Zebo, having played the Tigers on plenty of occasions on their own patch, knows that Munster will have to show plenty of aggression tomorrow evening if they are to land points on the road.

“We know how dangerous they are. Welford Road is such a hostile environment to go to and we need to be really clinical and accurate to come away with any points at all,” says the Corkman.

“We are just going to have to have a game-plan, implement it as best we can and try and nullify their attack. At times they can be very dangerous when they go wide.

“They have got some really good strike runners. We are going to have to be on top of our game if we want to achieve what we want to achieve and that is to get four points first and foremost and anything more would be a bonus.”

Last weekend’s encounter between the sides at Thomond Park was a hugely physical clash and Zebo is expecting tomorrow’s game to be another step in physicality.

Just like Leicester were last weekend, Munster will be up against a 16th man and the Reds will have to try to quieten the Tigers fans early.

“Our physicality needs to be increased compared to what we’d produce at Thomond Park because at Thomond Park it is easy to be motivated for games, with that crowd behind you, at a 7.45pm kick-off.

“At Welford Road it is the reverse effect, they have the 16th man, they have the extra two or three inches bulging out of their chests.

“Last year, they bullied us in the breakdown, in the tackles, in the ball carrying contest. It is a narrow pitch so it is going to be a bruising, physical encounter and whoever wants it more is going to come away with it.

“We had a bit of soul-searching in a few meetings with Rassie (after that defeat). A lot of fellas were called out that day and it wasn’t nice.

“It is a rarity we get bullied and that is something we take huge pride in. What is on the crest is what we take huge pride in. We have to make sure it does not happen this weekend. As far as accuracy is concerned, we cannot control that but in terms of physicality hopefully we will not be found wanting in that department.”

It has been well documented that Zebo will leave the club at the end of the season and head to pastures greener and it would be easy for him to have his head turned but his focus this week is on tomorrow’s clash and after that about putting the Reds into a position where they have a chance to win trophies.

Before that news broke of his imminent departure, he spoke to those of his team-mates who he was closest to make sure they knew what was happening and also to make sure the focus would continue to be on the team and not the man.

Neither has he closed the door on returning to his home province in the future, France was an itch he had to scratch.

“I had chats with the people I needed to have chats with, people I’ve been very close with. Conor (Murray), Keats (Ian Keatley), Pete (O’Mahony) people I would have grown up playing with and things like that. Just my real, real close friends I needed to, I suppose, have a little one on one with.

“Besides that I just tried to make it... dull it down as much as possible because we’ve got trophies to focus on winning and my situation shouldn’t hinder that.

“It wasn’t too much of a distraction. I knew the decision was coming up and I just had to make a decision for me and what I consider is best for me and my family.

“It’s something I always wanted to do and the right opportunity at the right time came up. I’m still young enough, I could always hopefully one day... the door isn’t fully closed on me, I’d still love to be a part of Munster Rugby in the future. But trying out the Top14 is always something I wanted to do.

“I could have waited until I was 31 or 32 and be a sheep like 90% of all the players who decide to go then but I wanted to try it when I’m in my prime and give it my best shot. I’m true to myself and I know who I am so I do things my way and I’m not shy about doing them.

“Munster is my home. In my eyes, it’s one of the best places in the world to play rugby. I’ve been blessed and very grateful to be given the opportunity to represent Munster for the past few years.

“This is a step I’ve wanted to take in my life, but definitely not closing the door and hopefully, Munster wouldn’t close the door on me either because it’s my home,” said the Munster full-back.

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