Simon Zebo magic offers warning to England of the dangers against Ireland in the Six Nations

Wales 22 Ireland 30

England be warned. The national team has been left bamboozled by a party trick from a green-shirted No 11 on Irish soil before.

True, on that occasion it was the English football XI and it was on Northern Irish soil – at Windsor Park in Belfast in 1971. But then, the party piece Simon Zebo produced in the 24th minute of Saturday's Six Nations opener in Cardiff was reminiscent of the manner in which George Best flicked the ball out of the hands of Gordon Banks, England's World Cup- winning goalkeeper and headed it into an empty net.

For his flash of inspirational genius, Best was at the time penalised for "ungentlemanly conduct" and the goal disallowed. Not so with Zebo, on the occasion of his Six Nations debut.

The Munster wing, 22, managed to stay on the right side of the rugby laws as he flicked the outside of his left boot to take control of a loose pass from Jamie Heaslip in the lead-up to Ireland's second try in the 30-22 win, touched down by Cian Healy.

With his socks rolled down to his ankles, Zebo has a throwback look about him – like one of those twinkle-toed football wingers of the 1970s (Dave Thomas formerly of Burnley, Queen's Park Rangers and England springs to mind).

In the oval-balled game, the less nippy England No 8 Dean Richards was fond of giving air to his shins. It was the Leicester totem who labelled Geordan Murphy "the George Best of rugby" – a badge of honour that has now surely passed on to the latest Irish back-three sensation.

"You don't really think too much about these things," Zebo said, reflecting on his magic moment in the aftermath of a flying Irish start to the Six Nations campaign. The 30-22 win was also inspired by the returning Brian O'Driscoll and sets up an intriguing head to head with England in Dublin next Sunday.

"Jamie threw a pass a little behind me so I said I'd give it a go and thankfully it paid off," added Zebo. "That's just my personality, I'm not afraid to have a go. The coaching staff and everyone else back the players, so nobody feels pressure to shut up shop. Everyone is encouraged to express themselves."

The Irish players have taken to calling Zebo "Django" and it was a piece of O'Driscoll brilliance that unchained him for Ireland's opening score, the veteran centre tying in three defenders before slipping him a scoring pass. O'Driscoll himself also got on the try-scorers' sheet as Ireland raced into a 30-3 lead inside 43 minutes, before sitting back and absorbing enough of the Welsh backlash to emerge with an eight-point margin still intact.

O'Driscoll was back to his razor- sharp best while hooker Rory Best and Sean O'Brien, the tackling machine at flanker, also produced performances of Lions class in front of the watching Warren Gatland. So, for that matter, did Zebo.

He might be on the light side for a latter-day winger – just 14st 10lb – but he is not shy of putting his body on the line, as he showed several times when Wales strove to build up a head of steam shortly before the interval.

First capped against New Zealand in the summer, Zebo is an intriguing character. His father, Arthur, hails from the Caribbean island of Martinique and moved to France to complete his military service.

He became one of France's leading 800m runners and, had it not been for a broken leg, he would have run in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal where, as the late television commentator Ron Pickering famously put it, the giant Cuban Alberto Juantorena "opened his legs and showed his class" to win the two-lap title, as well as the 400m.

Arthur Zebo married a Cork woman, Lydia, and it was in the southern Irish city that their son was born.

Simon ran the 100m in 11.1sec at school and his sister, Jessika, has also inherited the family speed genes. A 400m runner, she has represented Ireland at the European Indoor Championships. Her brother was almost lost to the Ireland rugby union team before his international career had even began. A fluent French speaker, in his late teens he toyed with the idea of making his way in the game in France instead. "I have family over there in Paris and in Toulouse," the new George Best of rugby said.

Wales – Tries Cuthbert, Halfpenny, Mitchell. Conversions Halfpenny 2. Penalty Halfpenny.

Ireland – Tries Zebo, Healy, O'Driscoll. Conversions Sexton 3. Penalty Sexton.

Wales: L Halfpenny (Blues); A Cuthbert (Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Blues), G North (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Toulon), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), A Coombs (Dragons), I Evans (Ospreys), A Shingler (Scarlets), S Warburton (Blues, capt), T Faletau (Dragons).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets) for Rees, 14-21, 52; P James (Bath) for Jenkins, 39-67; J Tipuric (Ospreys) for Shingler, 43; L Williams (Blues) for Phillips, 64; C Mitchell (Exeter) for Jones, 74; O Kohn (Harlequins) for Evans, 74; J Hook (Perpignan) for Biggar, 74.

Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); C Gilroy (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), M McCarthy (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt).

Replacements: K Earls (Munster) for D'Arcy, 45; C Henry (Ulster) for O'Mahony, 52; D O'Callaghan (Munster) for McCarthy, 62; D Kilcoyne (Munster) for Healy, 74; E Reddan (Leinster) for Zebo, 79.

Referee: R Poite (France).

Numbers game: Worries for Wales

4th place

Wales have never finished above fourth after losing their first game

2003

France were the last side to lose their first Six Nations fixture after winning the Grand Slam (in 2002)

Wales have won just five of their 13 opening Six Nations matches

Suggested Topics
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick