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'It's through Ireland playing well that makes the All Blacks look human'

Simon Zebo tried to credit a little Michael Jordan magic for his performance in Chicago, but it’s repeatable on this side of the Atlantic too.

“I WAS IN Chicago, so there was probably something in the air with Air Jordan or something.”

After a brief moment of pride from a high-fielding job well done, Simon Zebo went back to crediting any and every external influence for Ireland’s win over New Zealand in Soldier Field.

zebo leap

It’s a theme which Joe Schmidt began swiftly after the win a fortnight ago and will continue right up until kick-off – despite Steve Hansen’s hilariously late attempt to snag the underdog tag.

It’s the ultimate humblebrag: sure, we beat the All Blacks in a nine-try thriller and ended the 111-year wait. But they had no locks and committed a heap of errors.

We can only hope this humility is as forced as it looks and that behind closed doors, Ireland are brimming with a wilful intent to do it all over again. After all, somebody had to ruthlessly punish Jerome Kaino, somebody had to force those errors and those 40 points against the world champions weren’t going to score themselves.

The line at the top of this page from Zebo is his second thought on the subject of the 60th minute wonder-catch that posterised Aaron Cruden and took some vital pressure off Ireland in the midst of a seemingly unstoppable All Black comeback.

His immediate reaction though, demonstrated a much more confident, calculating mindset.

“I saw Aaron Cruden back there, to be honest, and I told Mur to put it up on him.

“Murray, as always, with an outstandingly accurate box kick and all I had to do was chase it and jump.”

Ireland’s Simon Zebo is tackled by New Zealand All Blacks’s Aaron Cruden Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

That wasn’t circumstantial, that was clinical and like so many other factors in Ireland’s gameplan, repeatable.

“We’d like to think so. We want to build on that performance. We’re not happy just settling on it and saying: ‘it was 111 years, we got the win, we can go out and get hockeyed this weekend‘ — that’s not it.

We want to get better, we want to prove to ourselves as a squad that it’s through us playing well that we’ll make the All Blacks look human.

“We’ll try to get better and try to improve on a few areas where we can and hopefully attack them and try to score some more points.”

New Zealand have most certainly arrived in Dublin with a point to prove. However, Ireland are far from the complete package. A team which has never advanced past the last eight of the World Cup should have no shortage of scores to settle themselves.

Even though, Zebo wasn’t on the summer tour of South Africa – complete with historic win and spectacular collapse – the fall-out has been ringing in his ears.

“We can’t let these one-off performances limit us. If we want to grow as a squad and compete with the best teams in the world, you have to do it on a consistent basis.

Simon Zebo Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“That means we have to show up for 80 minutes again this week. We have to be there or thereabouts come 75-80 minutes to get the win. We know what we have to do, that’s show consistency at the highest stage against the best teams in the world and prove it’s not a once-off.”

Michael Jordan didn’t have to be in Chicago for the magic to happen – The Shot was in Cleveland, he posterised Patrick Ewing in New York – and neither does Simon Zebo.

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Sean Farrell

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