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Rugby World Cup: Simon Zebo is backing Tommy Bowe to prove his quality

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland's Simon Zebo has rubbished the notion that fellow wing Tommy Bowe is struggling for form as the World Cup kick-off edges closer.

Joe Schmidt's side begin their campaign against Canada in the Millennium Stadium on Saturday afternoon with Ulster's Lions star facing a battle to make the starting line-up after what was, for his own high standards, an off-colour showing in the defeat to England in the final warm-up game.

Zebo, however, does not feel there is any issue with the 31-year-old Monaghan man.

"Tommy has been unbelievable all pre-season," said Zebo. "I think he's one of the best wingers in the world, he's a very classy player.

"Form isn't an issue with him. We were running backwards at times against England, we didn't have the ball for the first 40 minutes. It's very hard for Tommy to play well when we're on the back foot all the time.

"There were a lot of things contributing to people not playing well and I thought he did everything he could.

"With him, I think he'll bounce back just like all the other 15 who were on the pitch will need to do because it was a loss and one player doesn't make a loss."

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With the likes of Italy and France to come, Ireland know that there are far sterner challenges than Kieran Crowley's men ahead but Zebo is refusing to look beyond the Pool D opener.

"Canada is the only thing we're looking at, at the moment," he said. "We're a game by game team and the first individual challenge is Canada. It's all or nothing and we have to play our best rugby to beat a very tough side.

"I think we know what we're capable of as a team. Physically we weren't there the last couple of games but there's no room for those errors now. We just have to hit the ground running from the first minute against Canada."

That sentiment was echoed yesterday by scrum-half Eoin Reddan, who said: "There's nobody thinking, 'it's only Canada'.

"I think this week will be incredibly tough. We've gone through their players, we know how capable they are of playing.

"We'll have to be more than ready, it's a full-on Test game and we're fully aware of that."

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