Zebo happy with US consolation prize after Lions omission

Simon Zebo walks into the room, that beaming smile spread across his face and hand already outstretched in warm welcome.

His default setting is friendly. The winger has won as many admirers for his happy-go-lucky approach to life as the quality of his game. He was even spotted beaming away in one TV interview shortly after injury stalled his progress earlier this season.

Yet Zebo is human like the rest of us and admits he lost his trademark bounce last month after Andy Irvine took a deep breath in London and revealed the names of the 2013 Lions.

No Zebo.

“I suppose I was initially very disappointed,” he admitted. “It would have been a hugely exciting tour to get a chance to go on and play.

“It was disappointing for a couple of days after but after that I quickly switched focus and there is an exciting tour to the States and Canada. It’s not the worst of places to get a chance to go to when you are at the back of a long season.”

Who knows what might yet happen. Rory Best has already been seconded from national duties by Warren Gatland although Zebo is quick to note the games in Houston and Toronto will be played in front of Joe Schmidt.

The new Ireland coach will fly into Texas on Friday week, the day before the USA game, and spend the next week with the squad which will remain under the care of Les Kiss before the second outing against Canada.

The Kiwi’s appointment has re-energised the vibe around the national team after the injury-ravaged decline of Declan Kidney’s reign and Zebo is among those who should profit the most. Leinster have played some superb attacking rugby under Schmidt’s watch and the Munster flyer admits to being pumped by the thoughts of what the new man will bring.

“Definitely, I was chatting to Ian Madigan there a while ago and he was just telling me how much I am going to enjoy working under him because everything he does is about getting the ball wide.

“He just loves seeing ball in winger’s hands. It would be great for me. Whenever I have the ball in my hands, I’m happy. It should be exciting times ahead with Joe.”

Such was Zebo’s impact on the international scene last season that it is easy to forget he has still earned only five Irish caps and his Six Nations amounted to one game against Wales and 11 minutes against England.

Then he broke that bone in his foot and the next eight weeks swept by without him, so he quickly eschews suggestions he has been bumped up the seniority ladder given the absence of ten Irishmen on Lions duty.

Best known as a wing, Zebo may well get the nod to spend some game time at full-back next month where, incidentally, he lined out last November against South Africa and Argentina. That wouldn’t happen in Australia.

“I am happy either or. I am just excited that I can play in both. It is another string to the bow. If I am asked to play there, I gladly would. I don’t even know where I’ll end up, personally, in a couple of years: fifteen or wing.

“Whichever is able to get me more ball, I suppose, I would be happier playing. You never know, I might feature there [at 15] for some part of this tour. It could be exciting. We’ll take it as it comes. I am glad to wear a green jersey anytime.”


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