Simon Zebo goes into this evening’s match between Ireland and Australia knowing he and his team-mates are facing some of the best players in the game.
Following wins over South Africa and Georgia, Ireland are hoping to make it three wins from three in the November series with victory over the Wallabies in the Aviva stadium.
Speaking in the build-up to the game Zebo said the memory of defeat to the southern hemisphere side 12 months ago was still in their mind.
“The performance last year, I wasn’t involved but it reinforces how dangerous they are as a side, how they can attack us from anywhere,” he said. “You can see the form they are in now, the likes of Folau and Cooper and Foley with talent pouring out of them.
“We’re going to have to be nailed on because one bad pass, one ball hits the floor and they go 80 yards and score a try.”
He was asked if he thought Israel Folau was a world-class player.
“Yep, definitely, I think so,” Zebo answered. “He’s got all the attributes, all the skill set.
“He’s one of those athletes that come around once in a generation. We’ll just have to keep him quiet, fingers crossed!”
The Munster winger also highlighted the threat posed by Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley.
“They’re both very talented and they can both kick a ball anywhere at anytime, they’ve caught out a fair few wingers in their day,” he said. “Quade is very dangerous and likes to attack the game line and bring the threat of the running game. They’re both unbelievably talented.”
“We just know that our back three will be in for a tough day if we’re switched on, so we just have to be to nullify that kicking game and running game.”
Zebo said Ireland were going in with a flexible game plan as they expected Australia to vary their game.
“It’s going to have to be a mixed bag because they can play any type of game they want at any time.”
He continued: “One moment they can look like they’re attacking the game line and put a ball in 60 yards over your head. We’re gonna have to be ready to adapt to any kind of situation and we’ll be doing well if we nullify them for 80 minutes.”
Zebo didn’t play any part in last year’s November series and he said that although he hadn’t made major changes to his playing style, Munster coach Anthony Foley and Ireland coach Joe Schmidt were both instrumental in improving his game in the interim.
“Nothing too different, but making me focus on little aspects of my game that need the extra bit of attention.
Just like any player, I don’t think any player out there is the finished article, everybody's continuing to improve.”
“I’m on the same path as any player my age, trying to get better and better week by week and those two guys have definitely helped me.”
*Breakingnews.ie reporter Shaun Cronin spoke to Irish Examiner rugby correspondent Simon Lewis about the upcoming match.