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Munster's Zebo believes there is no limit to what confident Irish are capable of

By David Kelly

While Simon Zebo may have nervously anticipated the opening video review session last night and any potential culpability for JP Pietersen's late concession, it was in keeping with Ireland's weekend that his positives far outweighed the negatives.

And in Zebo one can see a personalised portrait of what Joe Schmidt is attempting to do with this Irish side - cast out for his perceived inability to fulfil the coach's demands last spring, the Munster wing has now conceded to his master's voice.

Always a blindside running threat, even if the cigarette-thin gaps never really fully invited him, his enthusiastic chasing and harrying reflected the intensity of the day - he was first up to Robbie Henshaw's game-opening chip into the corner.

Better off the ball than on it, precisely because there wasn't much to get on in the first place, Zebo's aerial and floor work echoed the manner in which he has responded to the coach's specifications.

"When we did hang on to the ball we managed to get some momentum," he reflected. "But on such a wet day, it was all about playing position on the pitch.

"One or two of those moments in the air can swing the momentum of a game really.

"That allowed us to get into good positions on the field, which in turn allowed us to get scores. That was critical for us.

"There wasn't much ball on the front foot. But we didn't hold on to it for long enough periods of time."

Australia in two weeks, presuming Zebo is allowed to maintain his position, is likely to allow more of a platform for him to marry his outrageous attacking ability with the detailed endeavour demanded by the coach.

For the squad, as much as the player, there is a sense that after this comprehensive, calculated defeat of the world-class Springboks, there is no limit to expectation.

"There is a lot of experience in the squad," he adds. "The management have instilled a lot of belief. We know what our goals are. We know how we are trying to play.

"It's just great to be involved in such a squad because the belief is there. There's just an atmosphere where we believe anything is possible.

"So that means we just need to go out and fire on all cylinders in each game and that will hopefully will bring us to success. It's all about momentum. We've got off to a great start and everyone is happy with that. But we still have two games to go in this series.

"We can't let this be a one-off where we come out and beat the second-best team in the world and then lose to two more sides. We expect to perform and hopefully two wins will come from that."

Meanwhile, Schmidt has admitted he cannot fathom the debt Ireland owe lock Paul O'Connell for continuing to clatter his body through Test skirmishes.

Ireland's head coach hailed 35-year-old lock O'Connell's cavalry-charge performance in Saturday's 29-15 victory over the Springboks in Dublin.

Kiwi boss Schmidt, at a loss to encapsulate his depth of admiration for O'Connell, settled on Maori term 'mana' - and there can be few higher honours a New Zealander bestows on a foreigner.

With no one set translation, 'mana' can mean a force of nature, but comes into common Kiwi parlance to describe a person of great prestige and character.

"He has an incredible amount of respect: a word that sums him up is that he's just got 'mana'," said Schmidt.

"He's a guy who does not know how to give up, he prides himself on being as well prepared as he can be and he has massive respect within the group because of how he delivers. When he's done, he delivers again. Not many guys have the mental capacity that Paul O'Connell has.

"There are guys who physically get into good shape, but he's one of the most mentally tough players I've been involved with."

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