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07th Sep 2022

Conor Murray recalls ‘court session’ revenge for Simon Zebo’s Lions prank

Patrick McCarry

Simon Zebo

“Yer man was prancing around the field, having gags!”

Simon Zebo had the first laugh. Conor Murray got him back. Then everyone laughed.

Back on the 2013 Lions Tour to Australia, the tourists were playing a midweek march against Melbourne Rebels and both Murray and Zebo were starting. The Lions had won the First Test against Australia but had lost a couple of players to injury [Warren Gatland would eventually make four changes for the Second Test].

This midweek outing was to be the last chance several tourists had to impress. The Lions would eventually pump the Rebels 35-0, but not before Zebo frightened the life out of his Munster and Ireland teammate.

“That nearly cost… that was crazy,” Murray told House of Rugby.

“Going back to that – that was crazy. That was the Wednesday before the Second Test, when everyone knew there were a few injuries in the starting team and there were actually chances to get involved in the Test squad. And yer man [Zebo] was prancing around the field, having gags! But that’s himself.”

By having gags, Murray is referring to the moment when, with 20 seconds still left on the first half clock, Zebo told his scrumhalf – on three occasions – to ‘kick it off!’ Murray followed the instructions from his fullback, and got some land when play kept going and Rebels got an attacking lineout.

Conor Murray calls Simon Zebo out

Fortunately for Conor Murray, Warren Gatland was in a forgiving mood, due to the size of the victory and the fact that he needed someone to back up England scrumhalf Ben Youngs.

The Munster man came off the bench with about 30 minutes to go in the final two Tests, as the Lions won the series against the Wallabies 2-1. There was also a chance, along the way, to avenge that Simon Zebo prank.

At a Lions’ court session ‘Fines Meeting’ for the squad, Murray nominated Zebo, who dutifully accepted his punishment. He rolled a dice and was informed that he would have to call then-Munster head coach Rob Penney and explain why he should be captain for the upcoming season.

With the call being made on loudspeaker, Zebo looked like he was getting away with just heaving to leave a voice message… until Rob Penney called right back. The room of players and Lions staff erupted. Penney asked ‘if it was a pocket phone call’ but Zebo ploughed bravely on.

SIMON ZEBO: Oh no, I meant to call ya… come here, I was just wondering what the story was with the captaincy, next year?

ROB PENNEY: Oh, that’s to be decided. What are your thoughts?

SIMON ZEBO: With Dougie [Howlett] going, I was just wondering if there’d be any chance for me? … [Room explodes with laugher]

ROB PENNEY: Are you and the boys mucking about?

‘You do genuinely make friends for life, from a tour like that’

Rob Penney took the phone call gag in good faith, but Simon Zebo never did get a captaincy look-in.

“Those type of things – dice rolling for breaking silly rules, things like that – are really important on Lions tours,” said Murray.

“I think Gatland is really good at that. In terms of understanding a touring side, and understanding it’s for nations coming together as one. You do need a lot of opportunities to have a bit of craic, and getting to know each other.

“In terms of rugby ability, there’s loads of that in the [Lions] squad. Coming together and learning to play a different style of rugby – I think that will be, not easily achieved but will be achieved a lot quicker than these relationships that need to form. They’re really important.

“You do genuinely make friends for life, from a tour like that. There’s certain lads that you will always stay in touch with, and get on really well with.”

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