Zebo praise for Irish half-backs

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Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton have proved they are the best half-back combination in world rugby, according to Ireland team-mate Simon Zebo.

Ireland dispatched England 19-9 in Dublin on Sunday, setting up an all-out assault on a first RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam since 2009.

Playmakers Murray and Sexton completely outshone Ben Youngs and George Ford, again conducting Ireland’s tactical rhythm.

Munster scrum-half Murray laid on Robbie Henshaw’s try while Sexton booted Ireland’s other 14 points at the Aviva Stadium, leaving Wales and Cardiff between Joe Schmidt’s men and a European clean sweep.

“They are quality players: Conor and Johnny have proven they are world-class,” said Zebo.

“Playing out wide it can be really easy I suppose because you know what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it.

“Joe Schmidt has a great game plan and those two boys are more than capable of executing it.”

Henshaw’s vital try on Sunday owed much to Murray’s cleverly-disguised box-kick, that caught Alex Goode just out of position, allowing the Ireland centre the half-yard to claim the hoisted ball and dot down.

Racing Metro fly-half Sexton again dominated proceedings through his tactical aerial assault, ranging from high bombs to inch-perfect touch-finders.

The British and Irish Lions half-back pairing continue to set Ireland’s relentlessly accurate tactical standards, the perfect lieutenants for taskmaster head coach Schmidt.

The debates would rage long on whether Murray and Sexton are the globe’s peers in their respective positions, but as a duo Ireland’s half-backs currently seem to have little equal.

Zebo also hailed Connacht centre Henshaw’s part in the try that sent Ireland into a 16-point lead.

“It was an unbelievable score: Robbie is a classy player,” said Zebo.

“He called for that ball and was clever enough to know that the advantage was there, but it was also a touch of class again from Conor, putting it right on the money.

“It was two quality pieces of play from two quality players.”

Boss Schmidt has been at pains to play down any Grand Slam talk in the wake of Ireland equalling their best-ever winning run of 10 Tests.

Zebo admitted the former Leinster coach is right to shift the focus off the ultimate prize and on to the March 14 clash against Wales in Cardiff.

The 24-year-old Munster flyer predicted it will be easy to resist the temptation to daydream about Grand Slam glory – because Schmidt will distract the Ireland squad with sheer hard work in training.

“It’s a huge test: Wales on their day can beat anyone,” said Zebo.

“They are an unbelievably dangerous side and that will be the massive focus for us now – it’s the biggest game of our season now.

“We can’t think about Grand Slams, we’ve just got to focus on Wales.

“If you look too far ahead of yourself you’ll slip up. So we’re just focused on preparation now, trying to recover and regroup and put our best foot forward for Wales.

“I don’t think it will be hard to keep things like Grand Slam talk off our minds.

“Each day there’s something new in training, we’re kind of in a bubble and we don’t really get wind of these exterior things that would be whispered about.

“So we’re just constantly trying to improve and constantly training hard, with meetings and everything we don’t get a chance to think about these kinds of things, so we’ll just be focused on Wales.”

Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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