Belfast Telegraph

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Controversy fails to mask Zebo brilliance

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

A prolific user of social media, Simon Zebo is fully aware of the storm that is circling as he enters the press conference room with a sheepish look on his face.

Racing 92's space-age stadium is all about entertainment, but judging by the po-faced reaction to the full-back's celebration of his try in Saturday's win over Ulster, rugby still isn't ready to embrace all the elements of 'Le Showbiz'.

All evening, he looked desperate to get on the scoreboard on his first outing against an Irish team in blue and white, but when he did he got a bit carried away and wagged a finger at winger Michael Lowry before touching down and heading to the corner to dance with the cheerleaders.

Chastised by referee Nigel Owens, he subsequently apologised to his opposite number on the field and then went to the visitors' changing room to offer his jersey as a further act of contrition.

"I feel s**t, but he's a lovely fella," he said of the incident. "As soon as I went over to apologise, he was very receptive, we'd a good chat after the game. There's no ill-feelings."

He has guaranteed himself a frosty welcome when he visits Belfast for the return fixture in January, but the incident shouldn't mask the fact that this was the Ireland international's seventh try in seven starts.

Having reviewed all of the Parisians' games this season, Ulster coach Dan McFarland reckoned this was their best performance to date and it put them in full control of Pool 4.

For Zebo, facing an Irish team was extra special.

"That's still a grudge match, a derby match, for me regardless of whether I'm in Racing colours or not," he said. "I would have hated to lose to them more so than losing to a French team so I'm just happy we got the win."

In a parallel universe, Zebo's form would make him a shoo-in for selection in Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad for the November internationals which is expected to be announced tomorrow or Wednesday.

His decision to swap Cork for Paris, however, has effectively removed him from the international equation and, while he wants to be involved, the full-back hasn't heard from the coach in a year and is at peace with his position.

"No, no. Down the line I would probably have to solidify my form. It would have to be a whole season long, I would have to score a try every single game, be man of the match… that's the way it is," he said.

"I haven't talked to people back home (in the Irish set-up) in about a year now. If there is no communication coming one way I know the deal so I am not going to sit around crossing my fingers. I'm just going to keep enjoying my rugby here.

"Of course, it would be a dream to play for Ireland again. It's very much a candle still burning in my mind."

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