Simon Zebo talks hurling love and Lions omission

Ireland and Munster rugby player speaks to Off The ball

Munster, Simon Zebo, rugby

Munster's Simon Zebo at the final whistle ©INPHO/James Crombie

Ireland international Simon Zebo says hurling rivalled rugby for his affections as a sporting career well into his teens.

The Munster player has made his name with the oval ball as a wing and full back of international quality but the sliothar also held sway for some time. 

"I would have loved it more than rugby at times, especially around Championship," said the Cork man on Off The Ball.

"But the decision around 16 or 17 when I was deciding my future and which sport I wanted to continue with could only be one. You could only dedicate yourself to one at that age.

"We were just finishing the hurling season and funnily enough it was coming into School's Cup time of the year and I went to Pres. Everybody wanted to win a Munster Schools Championship and that really swayed me in the direction of rugby."

In more recent times, Zebo missed out on inclusion in the British and Irish Lions squad for the New Zealand tour this summer and discussed his feelings on that.

"I was very hopeful. It's obviously a dream to play for the Lions. But it wasn't meant to be so I just have to take it how it is," he said. 

Zebo also spoke about his affable personality on and off the pitch, which is part of his overall philosophy on life.

"I need to kind of express myself and train and play with a smile on my face because that's when I'm at my best," he said. 

The 27 year old also spoke about the passing of Anthony Foley, one of his childhood heroes, last October.

"It was a whirlwind. It was one of the strangest days of my life to be honest. One minute you're preparing for game and then the next minute you're hit with a bombshell and it's incredibly difficult to take," he said, before reflecting on the emotional match against Glasgow Warriors at Thomond Park where fans and players alike paid tribute to Foley.

"We were brought together and focused all our energy and what we have left of it in the right direction and that was in putting in a mega performance that he'd be proud of.

"I said after that nobody was going to beat us that day and I stand by that. Whether it was the All Blacks we were playing, they weren't going to beat us."

Zebo also spoke about his Martinique born father's own athletic prowess and how his parents met in Paris, before returning to Ireland together, as well as dealing with experiences of racism in his formative years.

And he also spoke positively of a full back future with Ireland and Munster, adapting to Joe Schmidt's methods at international level including working on ruck hitting, and dreams of playing or coaching in France one day.

"It's just something I'd love to do. I'd love to go over there, experience the lifestyle. I've a lot of family over in France. It's like a second home to me," he said, adding that he has gone there every year.

Bord Gáis Energy have announced Simon Zebo as one of their #HurlingToTheCore ambassadors! Simon started to play Hurling aged 5-6 and has had a huge love for the sport ever since. You can certainly hear his passion for the sport when he speaks about it!