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Rapping, running and chicken tikka: 10 things you didn't know about Simon Zebo

Munster have the weekend off, so we decided to ask Simon Zebo about things away from rugby.

Simon Zebo Zebo is preparing for the Wings for Life World Run Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND AND MUNSTER wing Simon Zebo is taking part in the Wings for Life World Run in Dun Laoghaire on 3 May. Ahead of the event, Zebo chatted to The42 about his life inside and outside of professional rugby.

Here are 10 things we learned about the speedster. 

1. We knew he was fast, but he reckons he’d smoke most people in Irish rugby over 100m

simon

If you’ve ever seen Simon Zebo play, you’ll know he brims with confidence. He loves to take people on and uses his searing pace to do it. We asked him how he’d fare in a triple threat 100m sprint with Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald and he was fairly bullish.

‘My 100m personal best is 11.1 but after looking at my 40 times this year I think I could probably break the 11 barrier. Keith would have me over 20 or 30m but over 100 I would definitely win. He wouldn’t be able to keep up with my strides. It would be like Usain Bolt v Tyson Gay. Luke Fitzgerald would be fast over a short distance too but then Usain Bolt would come into his own.’

2. Athletics saved him from a life of cauliflower ears, jackling and scrum seminars…

… or maybe he would just be a step slower. Guess we will never know.

‘I did loads of athletics when I was younger and my dad had me on the track from two years of age. It really helped me develop as a player. Without it I might have ended up in the back row or the centre!’

3. He took to most sports pretty easily

zeebs

He was a decent runner, Gaelic footballer and soccer player. The prospect of playing at Old Trafford stills appeals to him occasionally… oh, and the money wouldn’t have been bad either.

‘I couldn’t imagine not playing rugby because I love rugby so much but sometimes I wish that I gave soccer more of a go when I see Wayne Rooney earning £300,000 per week.’

4. I you like Indian food, you could do worse than making friends with Zebo

The former Lion lists a load of things he likes to do away from the training ground and one of them is cooking for his pals.

‘I really like surfing. I try to get out and catch a few waves. I like cooking, going to the cinema or playing Xbox with the lads. I would cook for my friends a bit and my signature dish would probably be chicken tikka masala.’

5. Winning means the most to Zebo but he prefers playing as an off-the-cuff wing rather than a cog in the kick-chase machine

Ireland's Simon Zebo 1/3/2015 Zebo played in four of Ireland's Six Nations encounters.

Fulfilling Joe Schmidt’s instructions brought Zebo his first professional medal but he prefers playing a more free-flowing style that allows him to best utilise his talents.

One French journalist says Zebo brings ‘speed, creativity and a bit of madness’ to the Irish team – he would like to be able to explore that more.

‘That sort of style is something that I don’t enjoy as much personally as much as others. Without trying to sound selfish because it is all about the team and you just want to win. But I do enjoy more getting the ball in my hands and having a go.’

6. He would love to give sevens a proper go

zeebs2

We speculated a few weeks back about what an Irish sevens team would look like if frontline internationals could be used.  We picked Zebo on the bench… something we neglected to mention in this interview.

‘I would love to play sevens and when I was about 18 I played it quite a bit. You are playing off a purely attacking base and against some of the best attackers in the world. I might even be better at sevens than I am at 15s.’

7. His and Paddy Jackson’s epic lip-sync was filmed in one shot, Birdman style

Source: SuperSofa7/YouTube

The Ulsterman’s meticulous nature behind the camera ensured that the actors hit their cues perfectly. Birdman was lauded for using only a few camera shots and Jackson showed a dab hand at combining directing and acting duties.

‘It was one take, I swear. What happened was when we jumped into the pool we were dripping wet and too cold to do it again. Paddy was the director and I was just on screen. I think we will do a sequel. I’m more in tune with hip hop so I think Paddy will have to learn some lyrics before we do another.’

8. Zebo takes his position as Irish rugby’s aficionado on rap music very seriously when it comes to recommending someone

There are so many videos of Zebo rapping that there was a bit of pressure on him to recommend a few good artists for the readers of The42.

He didn’t say it, but it was probably a feeling akin to walking out on the pitch to play England back in March.

‘I’m going to get my phone out now and have a look because I have three songs here. Chris Brown has a new album that is quite good and Kendrick Lamar is unbelievable. Nicky Minaj has a new song that is cool and if you are a big hip hop fan, Asap Rocky is great.’

9. Donnacha Ryan is out of touch (part 1)

Donnacha Ryan Simon Zebo isn't impressed with Donnacha Ryan's taste in music or ability to bust a move. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Zebo says music is his big passion outside of rugby so it’s no surprise that he’s quite dictatorial when it comes to who has control of the sound system in the Munster dressing room.

Another thing that isn’t a surprise is that Zebo has clashed with older members of the team around what artistic direction they should go in with regards to the sound that emits from the speakers.

‘A few of the lads would have a shocking taste in music. I usually control the music in the gym because lads like Donnacha Ryan and Peter O’Mahony would be playing the Eagles or Christy Moore. When you are trying to shift a bit of tin it doesn’t really give you any motivation at all.’

10. Donnacha Ryan is out of touch (part 2)

‘Is it a cliché that all the forwards are lumps who can’t actually dance or are some of them surprisingly good?’

‘No, none of the forwards are any good. The best outside of myself? Luke Fitzgerald has good moves and in Munster, our sub out-half Johnny Holland is probably the best. Donnacha Ryan tries to dance a lot. He saw me do a move in the gym and tried it himself but his feet just couldn’t move that way.’
Irish and Munster rugby player, Simon Zebo, is a race ambassador and driver of the Catcher Car for the Irish race of the 2015 Wings for Life World Run that will start in Dun Laoghaire on 3 May 2015, the only race where the finish line catches you. Wings for Life is a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation, whose mission is to find a cure for spinal cord injury. They fund scientific research and clinical trials around the globe aimed at healing the injured spinal cord.  To donate, click here.

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