Simon Zebo slowly coming around to Ireland's meat and two veg rugby
Simon Zebo is the latest acolyte to the Joe Schmidt school of rugby.
The Munster winger is well capable of solo runs, offloads and skip passes but he insists he does not mind how his Ireland coach goes about winning Test matches.
A lot has been made of Ireland's forward-dominated game-plan, since Schmidt took up the national posting, and a lack of try-scoring opportunities, during 15 v 15 rugby, in the past two games has increased the volume.
Zebo is Ireland's in-form winger, with three tries in his last six matches, but says he is happy to do the meat-and-two-veg basics if it means the team's winning streak extends into double figures.
He says: 'We have to take every game as it comes, but in order to win the game you need to play what’s in front of you. Throwing the ball out wide for the sake of it’s not going to win us any games. We need to see what’s lining up in front of us, make the right decisions and hopefully get the right result.'
The kick-chase has become as crucial to Ireland, in the past 18 months, as the attacking maul and choke tackle. Zebo comments:
'It is one of those things where it probably would be seen as one of the more mundane aspects of the game for Tommy, or myself, or the centres. But it’s something we get excited for, and we have to, because it’s helping out the team.
'When we see the lift the team gets from Tommy slapping a couple of balls back on our side, getting momentum, pushing on and getting scores, that’s what we’re doing it for, and that’s the collective.'
Does a good kick-chase deliver the same thrill as stepping an opponent? 'Errm, no,' Zebo admits, 'if I'm being honest it wouldn't.
'But I've definitely satisfaction in seeing the team do well. The whole reason I started playing rugby was the excitement I get out of those things, putting someone in space, scoring tries, things like that.
'At the end of the game, if we win and I know that a couple of slap-backs or regaining a high ball has got us along to winning the game, then that will make me twice as happy as scoring any tries.'
Despite proving his fitness, with Munster, midway through last year's championship, Zebo found it difficult break into Ireland's extended training squads. That led to speculation he was 'not a Joe Schmidt player' but he has since proved such thoughts wrong. Sunday's game will be his eighth in a row in the green jersey.
'I have not necessarily [changed my game] because the only different things [I have focused on] is in respect to chasing and making more decisions in defence or the breakdown.
'They are things you don’t see so often, but when you do you just have to be more effective.'
As for England's main threats, Zebo belives Bath's exciting trio of Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and George Ford are the men to watch.
'Watson has been getting a good bit of ball and he’s really exciting when he’s gotten it,' he says. 'JJ and Ford possess fantastic skill-sets. All these guys have unbelievable attributes and they've been getting good front-foot ball, so we need to try to slow that down.'