Ireland are ready to fight flair with flair to beat France and avoid defending champions New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals, according to Simon Zebo.
Munster flyer Zebo has admitted he faces a dogfight to retain a starting place against his “second country” France in Cardiff on Sunday, with fit-again Rob Kearney likely to return at full-back.
Jared Payne was expected to train fully on Wednesday and therefore contest selection for Sunday’s Pool D decider, the centre apparently winning his battle against a heavily-bruised foot.
Zebo admitted his French heritage plays into his sense of attacking adventure, the 25-year-old Cork native’s father Arthur hailing from Martinique – and backed Ireland to match Les Bleus’ broken-field verve if required this weekend.
“This will be a very physical game I’d say, it will come down to small margins, the little errors will be costly – but if it opens up, then all the better,” said Zebo.
“I think we’ve an extremely talented pack that will give us momentum hopefully, and a great backline to run off it.
“We’ve all the confidence in our own team to mix it with them if it gets loose.
“But we’ll still just make sure we do everything in preparation to be as ready as we can be come this weekend.
“I’d say my background does come into my style of play, my family would be very expressive, and I think you can see it in my personality and my character that I play the way I am behind closed doors.
“So I just go out, try to enjoy myself and execute the skills to try to help the team.
“I’ve played against France before so the surprise element to it is gone, and my family is the same, it’s not as special as it was the first time.
“But if selected it would be a great occasion to play against my second country.
“I haven’t spoken to my dad much this week, but I think he will have his Irish jersey on this weekend!”
Head coach Joe Schmidt has devised a set of special World Cup plays that Ireland are yet to unleash on the tournament.
The former Leinster boss has kept his powder dry in wins over Canada, Romania and even Sunday’s prosaic 16-9 victory over Italy.
Zebo admitted Ireland may start to roll out a few of those set strike moves against the French – but only if Schmidt’s men can secure a solid pack platform first.
“We didn’t attack at all the way we would have wanted against Italy, so even if we’d wanted to we couldn’t have used any of those plays,” said Zebo.
“We were silly offloading, errors and knock-ons and things contributed to a bad flow in our attack and just didn’t allow us to gain any momentum into the Italians.
“So we’ll have to correct that this weekend because if the game does open up we’ll have to be able to offload the ball and keep the continuity a lot better than we did last week.
“We just couldn’t get a rhythm going against Italy, so we’ve got to make sure we gain a better flow against France.
“Obviously the competition for places is still huge, I was happy to get a run at full-back last week and I think the coaches know what I can do on the wing.
“I’ll just keep working hard in training to keep showing what I can do.”