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28th May 2017

Simon Zebo speaks with grace and honesty at what must be an incredibly tough time

He allayed injury fears too

Patrick McCarry

Coming out of the tunnel and going from zero to 60 across the Aviva Stadium pitch in mere seconds, Simon Zebo was up for this one.

The Munster winger had finished off a stunning team try against Ospreys the week before, in the semis, and was back at the grandest Irish rugby stage to go again.

Munster were primed to end their six-year wait for silverware and went into the Guinness PRO12 final as heavy favourites to beat Scarlets. After 32 minutes, though, they were 29-3 down.

When Van Morrison sang ‘There’d be days like this’, he probably meant to add there would be crap ones too. A 46-22 shellacking and the wait goes on.

Every team has an agenda, a purpose, when they go out on the pitch. Some driving motivation to push them beyond themselves when it counts.

Munster have had that desire to do justice to the legacy of coach Anthony Foley ever since his tragic passing last October. They were also saying goodbye to the likes of Donnacha Ryan and Francis Saili. They also wanted to win the damned thing.

Two trips to the Aviva Stadium in less than a month and two humbling defeats. It can’t have been easy for Simon Zebo to front up to the press after the game but, as a senior player, that’s what he did. His words were stark, honest and, to the victors, graceful.

“We got blitzed,” he admitted. “It was the same a couple of years ago against Glasgow, they attacked us from the start and left us a mountain to climb. We weren’t able to climb it, but we’ll learn from it hopefully.” Zebo continued:

“Hopefully in the future, the players will grow mentally more than anything. It’s the big occasions, the big days, making sure we play to our full potential. We’ve lost a couple of those opportunities. Hopefully we’ll grow and learn from them now.”

“There were a lot of mistakes in both attack and defence,” Zebo admitted with a shake of the head. “Our defence has been incredibly all year and we leave in three or four tries in the first half.”

Asked if the Scarlets had taken Munster by surprise at all, Zebo replied:

“We knew what was coming, bad decisions in both attack and defence. I think the occasion got to us. We put the hand up, Scarlets were the better team today.”

“It’s different for me, because I’m behind the ball. It’s harder for the boys in the front line with dummy runners and the way they attack at pace.”

Zebo is set to link up with the Ireland squad at Carton House next week ahead of the summer tour to America and Japan.

He allayed any fitness worries after TV pictures captured him with a bag of ice strapped around his left knee before heading off to drown his sorrows with his Munster teammates.

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