Zebo gunning to make his mark and quick
Reporter: “How does it feel to be a nobody one day and have the whole world know you the next?”
Willie Beamen: “Well, I was always a star. Y’all just didn’t know about it. And it ain’t the whole world, two billion people in China ain’t never heard of the game.”
Shark Lavay (to wife): “Sharks in the water.”
Jamie Heaslip told the media yesterday the Ireland squad had taken to calling Simon Zebo “Django”.”The D is silent.
But any sporting aficionado will know there’s a far better Jamie Foxx character to compare to the 22-year-old Cork winger.
Willie Beamen, the young quarterback in Oliver Stone’s instant classic Any Given Sunday, also had to pay his dues before getting his chance at the line of scrimmage. And he immediately shined. Zebo is the “new breed of athlete” John C McGinley’s journalist character, Jack Rose, wrote about.
He likes scoring hat-tricks in January and is record-breakingly quick. The GPS device attached to his training vest proved he is the fastest Irish rugby player in modern times.
Even smoked Craig Gilroy? “Correct. He’ll vouch for that. All I know is my GPS recorded the fastest ever time. It was 9.4 metres per second, but I was carrying the ball and Earlsy came pretty close to it as well so I’d have to do it without the ball and see how fast I go.”
The arrival of Zebo and Gilroy, at the expense of converted centres Andrew Trimble and Fergus McFadden, changes Ireland’s dynamic as an attacking entity.
Even Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Horgan and Tommy Bowe cannot be considered natural born sprinters. The last genuine article was Denis Hickie. Now Declan Kidney has promoted two. And only because of injury and being backed into a corner last November.
The return of Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney (presuming his knee problems clears up) means this backline is arguably the best, certainly the fastest and most creative, since 2003. High praise and certainly premature but the boys on the wing have wheels and there is no substitute for that.
Saturday will be his second run alongside Ireland’s greatest ever player. “Yeah, (O’Driscoll’s) excellent, he’s unbelievable. He’s just so knowledgeable about the game, his skill set is just crazy, you know, he’s been a dream to work with. It would be great to have another few games together.”
O’Driscoll is not going to score from Ireland’s 22 anymore but, finally, all the old warhorse has to do is break the line. Zebo or Gilroy can do the rest from his slipstream.
“Well, it’s always in the back of our minds, if it’s on then have a go, Craig especially with him being an extremely exciting runner. If we think there’s a gap there we’re going to have a crack. Hopefully if one or two holes appear and we can run one in from 80. That would be great.”
Jonah Lomu, Joe Rokocoko, Cédric Heymans and Vincent Clerc are the flyers Zebo gravitated towards as a teenager.Rokocoko is the closest comparison, although Zebo remains some way shy of the slippery conger eel who has over two stone on him.
Still, his deceptively quick running style almost saw the French lay claim to him on two separate occasions. His father Arthur – an 800 metres Olympian in 1976 — hails from the French colonial island of Martinique in the eastern Caribbean sea.
The Munster Academy contract didn’t come straight out of leaving Pres Cork in 2008 so he joined Cork Constitution. He admits to being too heavy, due to a foot injury, which denied him exposure at Ireland under-19 level but his performances for the Munster under-20s in 2009 solved the problem.
There was also talk of switching to Toulouse until agreeing a three-year deal with Munster earlier this month.
The generational gap between Zebo and reporters is funny to watch. Favourite band? “Jay Z and Kanye West, no bands for me.”
Willie Beamen all over.