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'He gave the players around him a real confidence' - Schmidt on Zebo

The Ireland head coach was similarly pleased with Ian Madigan’s display at out-half.

ASKED TO PROVE his versatility as Joe Schmidt looks to ensure his final 31-man World Cup squad covers all eventualities, Simon Zebo delivered impressively at fullback for Ireland.

Simon Zebo and Ian Madigan celebrate Zebo and Madigan came in for praise from Schmidt. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Cork flyer was named man of the match after a standout display for Schmidt’s men in their 28-22 win over Scotland in Dublin this evening, with a gorgeous second-half try bringing his international tally to seven.

More usually occupying the left wing wing slot for province and country, Zebo showed his quality as a fullback against Vern Cotter’s Scots, although there are of course areas for improvement in the coming weeks.

If these World Cup warm-up fixtures are about players seizing their chances and forcing coaches’ hands, Zebo can be a satisfied man tonight.

“He did some things really well,” said Schmidt post-match. “I felt that whenever the ball went in the air and he was going up at it, we had a real confidence. He gave the players around him a real confidence that he was going to look after it.

Defensively he’s still getting his angles right coming up and closing that outside player. For a guy who hasn’t played a massive amount at fullback in recent years, that’s something that we continue to work on with him.

“There were some really nice bits of skill from him. He beat (Richie) Vernon on the outside one time, with that ‘in and away’ that he does so well. He timed a couple of nice passes and obviously that inside line he ran on Ian Madigan to create and finish that third try, it was spot on.”

It was indeed the out-half who slipped Zebo in for Ireland’s third, before he was again provider for Luke Fitzgerald’s try in the 69th minute, this time thanks to a perfectly-weighted cross-field kick.

Paddy Jackson’s end-of-season form before the summer had seen him push for status as the back-up to first-choice 10 Johnny Sexton, but this was a timely response from Madigan.

Simon Zebo and Ryan Grant Zebo was superb in the air. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

His place-kicking remains a hugely positive attribute, while the touches of attacking ability delighted the crowd at the Aviva Stadium against Scotland.

“I think he demonstrated that he can play the position,” said Schmidt of his out-half. “His line kicking was spot on, he got some good distance to attack from his line kicking. His kicking off the tee was super.

“We could have done with that last one, which was probably one of the easier kicks, but I thought he kicked well off the tee.

His pass delivery was very positive and I thought that there were two crucial involvements he had in the lead-up to the third try. He had an absolutely crucial involvement in the delivery of the fourth try, capped off by his schoolmate Luke Fitzgerald. I think there were plenty of positives for him.

“Defensively, he made some good tackles and probably some tackles that he could have probably put more pressure around,” continued Schmidt’s thorough assessment.

“So he’s a pretty good guy to do self-analysis, be reasonably tough on himself and look for more from himself. I’ve no doubt that he’ll look at it and have some ideas about what he can do better.

“We’ll chat with him about those and we’ll chat with Paddy, who I thought grew into the game well last weekend.”

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Murray Kinsella

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