'I don’t think I’ve ever refreshed my email so much!' - Ireland's Simon Zebo

The Munster flyer says he is playing without fear and relishing every moment in green.

THE MEN IN Ireland’s final World Cup squad have shifted their attention to the meeting with England this weekend in Twickenham now, but there was a nervy evening of waiting on Sunday.

“I don’t think I’ve ever refreshed my email so much in my life, just hoping for something to pop up,” said Simon Zebo. “It was a long old day. I spent it wisely by chilling out with my family, trying to get them to take my mind off things, and it worked out well.

Simon Zebo Zebo was relieved to get the confirmation. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“But I was on the phone to a few lads like Conor Murray and Earlsie hoping they hadn’t received anything without me!”

It was close to 10.30pm when Zebo and 30 others saw the notification pop up on their phones, the final word from Joe Schmidt congratulating them on making Ireland’s World Cup squad for 2015.

The range of options in the back three meant Schmidt went through a lengthy decision-making process with his fellow coaches in that area, and the Kiwi head coach has indicated that Simon Zebo’s ability to cover fullback stood in his favour.

Almost as a result, Zebo’s Munster teammate Felix Jones misses out, Schmidt unable to carry a further fullback in his squad. Speaking yesterday afternoon at Carton House, Zebo said he hadn’t been in contact with Jones yet.

No I haven’t, I’ve left it alone. He’d be one of my best friends up here (in Ireland camp), if not my best friend up here to be honest.

“So I know what he’s like as a person. I know he doesn’t want any sympathy, he just wants to put his head down now and work hard for Munster. I’ll just let him at it for a couple of days.

“He’s been brilliant, he’s worked extremely hard in the nine weeks, but it’s hard just to point to any one person. There’s Ferg McFadden, Andrew Trimble, there’s a load of people who’ve missed out and that’s just the way selection goes.

“If you’re lucky, happy days, but if you’re not you just have to regroup and perform well with your province, because anything can happen. You’re one injury away from coming back in.”

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Zebo has never been shy to back his own ability and he very much feels his place in Ireland’s World Cup squad has been earned by his hard work in pre-season and his form in the Ireland jersey over the course of nine consecutive Tests last season.

Simon Zebo celebrates scoring his sides 3rd try Zebo was a try scorer against the Scots. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A strong performance at fullback against Scotland was a further boost, but Zebo doesn’t see it as the sole reason his World Cup spot was confirmed.

One of the most interesting aspects of Zebo’s performances for Ireland in recent times have been the moments where he was popped up infield, acting as a playmaker for Schmidt’s side.

The assist for Jones’ try against Wales in Cardiff was a fine example, and Zebo relishes taking more opportunities like that one if and when they arise in the World Cup.

“It’s something that I like to do, I love being able to come in and get my hands on the ball as much as possible and affect the game in a positive way,” said Zebo. “I think it just depends on the game really.

Say in the Six Nations we were using a lot of kick, so I wouldn’t be able to do it as much. I’d have to stay out and chase or carry the ball on the edges. But these warm-up games have been a lot more expansive, less kicking for territory and things like that.

“It’s been easier to go out and express yourself and get your hands on the ball. Whichever way a game is going, if we need to do that I’ll get in and hopefully do my thing. If it’s not, I’ll stay out and help my team on kick chase.”

Zebo has a justified confidence in himself at international level and sees himself as a very different Ireland player to the one who made his debut in 2012. This version of Simon Zebo is far better suited to excelling in a Rugby World Cup.

“Back then I was probably just really happy and excited to be involved with the Ireland set-up,” said Zebo. “It was my first time there.

“I’ve probably evolved into just being a lot more comfortable and expressive in the way I play, not having any fear about the consequences I suppose. It’s exciting because that’s when I play my best rugby, when I’m fearless and excited.”       

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