Simon Zebo says it’s “good to watch” teams playing on the edge when they target key players like Johnny Sexton, while he admitted that he thought Romain Poite reffed Saturday’s game well.
The Ireland out-half took a heavy hit from Allan Dell and left the field after just 24 minutes for a head injury assessment, which he subsequently failed.
As one of the best players in the world, Sexton has received plenty of attention from opposing teams in recent years and Paddy Power Rugby Ambassador, Zebo, maintains that teams will do whatever they can to put key players off their game.
“Teams go to attack certain players. Teams go out and pinpoint a player and say if we get at him today that’ll give us a big chance of winning.
“You’d be naive to think teams don’t man-mark or go head-hunting certain players, you have to try and get the best players off their game somehow and if it means hitting them extra hard or bordering on the edge of that fraction too late, that’s what teams have to do to win.
“Johnny plays on the line and some teams when they’re playing against him, it’s probably on the edge as well. That’s just the way it is. It’s test footy, and it’s good to watch.”
The Racing 92 star was impressed with Joey Carbery’s “mental toughness” to recover from an early mistake. Shortly after his introduction, Sexton’s replacement attempted to throw a pass which was intercepted by Finn Russell, leading to a try for Sam Johnson.
However, Carbery went on to make a crucial break and stunning offload for Keith Earls in the build-up to Ireland’s third try before nailing a security penalty with minutes remaining.
“It showed his mental toughness to be able to come back and perform so well in a hostile environment like Murrayfield after helping the other score try like that. Obviously, it wouldn’t have done much for his confidence but to bounce back like that showed great resilience.
“He’s a great player and he’s got the mental strength to back it up.”
Much of the focus was on referee, Romain Poite following the game with Greig Laidlaw accusing the French man of not liking the Scotland team, following a number of decisions.
Zebo disagreed with Laidlaw’s opinion but said that he understands the Scottish captain’s frustration.
“I thought Romain Poite had a good game. But Greig was obviously a bit frustrated in the heat of the moment. He’s the captain of the side and he’s just put in a big 80 minutes, and I think he’s probably reacted a bit differently than others would towards the ref, putting it nicely.
“When you come off the pitch you can be a bit hot-headed if you’re after losing at home, so I can understand his emotions. If Greig is playing in a World Cup match, hopefully, he doesn’t get Romain Poite reffing him.”