Poster boy with the happy-go-lucky nature was born to run for Munster
Munster have their poster boy signed up for three more years and, despite interest from Toulouse, that suits Simon Zebo just fine too. The prospect of losing such an engaging, free-running, free-spirited charismatic fans’ favourite, who embodies the new Munster, would have been unthinkable.
Zebo is the future, and if all goes well, could assuredly be a superstar of Irish rugby for many years to come.
“Happy days,” says Zebo.
The approach to his agent from Toulouse makes him giggle, like most things seemingly do, even if he genuinely countenanced a move to the one-time home of his Martinique-born father.
“France, and Toulouse especially, was flattering and I seriously considered it too, but my love for Munster came through, and especially if I’ve aspirations of playing for Ireland. I don’t want anything to hamper my opportunities to play for my country. Munster is my province. I want to be successful with this team. All my best friends are playing here too. We just want to win trophies with them. That sealed the deal.”
The target over the next two weekends is wins against Edinburgh and Racing, with qualification for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals thus a credible target. “There’s a lot of belief in the camp. We just have to win both our games, maybe with one bonus point. We left the Racing match away behind us but we’re going to make up for it now and please God make the quarters.”
With a weekend off as part of the Irish player welfare programme, Zebo was, as ever, in good spirits yesterday. Himself, sister Jessika, mum Lynda and dad Arthur all headed over to his aunt and uncle’s house in Croydon for three nights over Christmas, along with his grandparents, his Cork uncle, and indeed his dad’s sister came over from France as well.
In any event, he’s a Munster boy through and through. “Until the day I suppose.” Ten years old when Munster reached the Heineken Cup final in 2000, he watched avidly through the years of pain and gain.
“My most vivid memory would probably be the miracle match,” he recalled of the 33-6 win over Gloucester three years later. “John Kelly and the like scoring the tries and ‘Rog’ kicking the points and I’ve always seen red since then.
“It’s been a dream to play with them and I’m living the dream at the moment.”
He watched it at home in Blackrock with his dad, uncle and grandparents. By then, a neighbourhood friend, Charlie Murphy (brother of Irish and Munster full-back Kenny), had been instrumental in encouraging an eight-year-old Zebo up to Cork Con mini rugby and the bug was instant. Zebo was born to run with the ball, the natural pace and footwork emanating from his dad, along with the easy-going, always smiling Caribbean nature.
Moved to Paris
“He’s the most laid-back man you’ll ever meet. Very chilled out, very happy-go-lucky. Yea, similar to me. I get it from him.”
Martinique being an offshore region of France, Arthur Zebo moved to Paris at 19 to do military service, during which he sustained a broken leg which prevented him from running the 800 metres at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.