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Wednesday night's rugby on off the ball with Vodafone official sponsors of the Irish rugby team, team of us, everyone in now then, as I'm sure you know by now, Rasim will play Exeter in the final seventeenth of October, Russinovich Saracen's 19 points to 15 on Saturday at the LA Defense Arena.
And we have Simon Ziba with us. Good evening. Good afternoon. Hello. Hi. How are you? Very well, congratulations. Thanks very much. Thank you. Celebrations afterwards looked really joyous. It was very, very, very sweet. And I'm sure, you know, winning the final is important that. But it looked like a big moment for the team.
Yeah, it was. I think it was. Yeah. It was a huge moment for the team to get back to the final. And they had been there obviously twice before. And yeah, it was particularly special for myself, making it my first appearance, I suppose, in the Champions Cup final. So yeah, everybody was really happy and very excited to take on Exeter and a couple of weeks.
Is that then a big night out for the team or does it do restrictions and professionalism mean that that doesn't happen?
Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately it couldn't happen. Probably wouldn't. Yeah, wouldn't be the time either, you know, because our schedule as a result of covid is means we're back in again next week and the week after and then the final obviously after that. So yeah, no time just yet but hopefully after a good performance in a couple of weeks we can celebrate that.
So the chip kick for Vakhitov and thimerosal, the moment that unlocks this game, I suppose, do you all know that's about to happen?
No, no, no, that's that's just straight off the cuff from Finland. And, yeah, that's that's the beauty about it. That's why it's so hard to defend, because you don't want to have, I suppose, four or five other players heading off to the ball as well. You know, we're actually in our general shape there. And it's just. Yeah. To two quality players executing a very important score for us.
And were you jealous that he told me and not you?
I was actually. Yeah, probably. And I was I was expecting the ball up the back and I'd actually called for a little tunel passport. VERMES The way he was running on to the ball and his excitement with the call, I think got to catch Finzi. So, yeah, it's probably better after that happened that way.
Well, it's interesting to hear that because Brian O'Driscoll was on his Instagram the other day, just doing a bit of analysis of that moment. And he was making a point similar to yourself. He was pointing at maybe Elliot Daley, who was on the edge, that if it didn't kick is coming, he might be the one that should drop back into the space. But because of the way you were all set up, it looked for all the world like this was in the back play.
And you you were deeper and it just looked like that. And he was wondering if anybody aside from Bakhtawar knew what was coming. So that's the question answered. That's the joy of it, that Russell has the license to do that and play it as he sees it.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I saw that as well. Actually, Fredricka, I was spot on. It was just the call from the two boys. But that's that's that's the way we play, you know. You know, it's if a call like that needs to go in, it's only one person needs to hear us. And the trust is there with all the all the players in the back line to execute that. So, yeah, obviously our team has to have the the capability to pull it off.
And the clutch moments like that was. Yeah, it was, it was a great play and nigh on impossible to defend because that's just one person calling it so literally in that situation is left in a in a tough spot.
Well so much of the talk under the Josh material, it was animation. You know, if you know the ball is not coming to you, you have to be animated and act like you do think it's coming to you. I mean, what better way to do that than just not tell you? So that's the magic that I that was tough. Second half. I mean, so Saracen's come out after halftime, nine unanswered points. It has all it's feeling a little bit of a stadium all over again from a Saracen's point of view.
And then much of that second half, you're under big scoreboard pressure as a team. What was that like? Yeah, I think the scoreboard was yeah, it was probably putting a bit of pressure on us put out there, we didn't feel under pressure and I think we always felt like we'd have one or two moments that we get really close. And and we did we probably had to try that could have been allowed, you know, one of their players with the ball off of one of our guys.
And we started it down him off, made a break after our side. Jeremy made another break and one tried to double clutch at it and pick it up again. And they were under the pump in that situation. Obviously, we had to check, but we always felt like we get back down there eventually and trying to win out there on the pitch. He wasn't worried at all. He was he was very cool. You know, it was just literally we never felt really under pressure, I think, of conceding a try to.
And that was another thing. We felt quite comfortable in the game. It was just that kept to their game plan and the three six nine twelve, you know, I suppose when they got to six points ahead and the time was winding down to the last five minutes, I suppose we felt a little bit more effort. We still we still had confidence that we'd be able to pull something off. And thankfully we did.
Yeah, they are not easy to play against for obvious reasons, because I was it's hard sometimes to know what the level of panic for want of a better word might be on the pitch. I remember. And fifty three minutes there was like almost a trick line play and it didn't come off. And you're almost as an onlooker wondering are they losing their heads here or are they calmly just trying things? And that's great and difficult to know sometimes. Yeah, we were just yeah, it was cowardly trying things, we had a game plan and we we go into each game with not much on the on the menu, I suppose you'd call it would probably be five or six plays.
And after that it would be just about getting into our general shape and executing what we see on the pitch. And yeah, I remember that. And I know and unfortunately, it didn't come off at Max National going to the middle. But yeah, Saracen's are steeped in defense. You know, they don't allow you to get into much shape. They they force a few errors. I had one or two myself and a few other players as well, you know, and and they live off that they thrive off or people's mistakes.
That's that's how they how they get into the game and get into their opponents heads. But once we do get a little purple patch, we feel quite comfortable. And we knew that we'd be able to put what the score is, just a matter of when. And we did leave a quite large portion in the end makes it all the sweeter in a weird kind of way.
Yeah, but I g there was a moment. I think it was done Morris the ball and I just landed in your hand and your own twenty two and smush it all.
Yeah. Yeah. Thanks a million for. That's a nice little hospital pass. Yeah. But yeah that's that pressure that a pressure game and yeah they come up with the unexpected in defense. And as I said all those moments they lead to another three points and then another knock out will lead to another three and sooner. And then you look up at the scoreboard and you could be six or nine points down and you're chasing it. So, yeah, you stay in touch with a team like that and hope to.
Yeah, your pressure pays off. In the end.
We've seen Irish teams struggle with that rush defense of late. What was the Russin approach to getting around it? Just trying to hold on to it is as much as possible, and they like to to play the game as well, so is finding the right time to to to strike and go for a counterattack or, you know, to to be in the right position to get into our shape. But once once we were in our shape, we just tried to just hold onto the ball as long as possible and stretch them into the extremities, test them applied.
And yeah, we've got some quality players who can make line breaks. So it's all about just trusting the players out there on the pitch to do the job.
I know it's been an injury season for you. And there was the foot problems, I think, twice. Where are you now in the fitness spectrum where kind of 70, 80, 90 percent of the weekend?
Yeah, I feel I feel really good. Yeah, I had quite a bit of time off and obviously and I, I feel really fresh snow at the moment, too. I suppose my first two games of the season have been a quarter in the semi, so it hasn't been easy on the long. But mentally I feel fresh and very excited and about the prospects of obviously finishing off this Champions Cup. We've got a huge game ahead, but going into the season as well.
That's right. After that is. Yeah, I feel really fresh and excited. So let's go to Nick.
Ryan was saying you think you broke your foot in January and then you heard it again in pre-season. There are concerns in the Rossing camp that the gout is acting up.
All that French food, I don't know.
Good. He's going to have a little job with. No, I would say from the away the cheese I leave to the others. Were I feeling good? Yeah. And I just want to just try and focus on staying healthy and staying out in the pitch. And when I'm able to do that and get some consistency back and momentum, you know, like the relationships, get the relationships back within and very tidy in these guys, then, yeah, good things are bound to happen.
So yeah, I just think that is an objective.
Number one, how is the artificial pitch on the body? And it's actually probably the best the best of the artificial pitches that I've played on, and there's a couple of layers to it. So it's like have like a part of its hybrid of natural gas and artificial fauji. So it's it's actually not too bad on the joints and the and the tendons and stuff. But my feeling is they're probably the only issue, I suppose, but they've been they've been good now of late, so hopefully it stays that way.
OK, your feelings in the broken foot injuries or more blisters, metatarsal issues in the past.
So I just have to yeah. Manage it a little bit, but yeah, it doesn't hold me back in any shape or form. Camacho's but just like any other player would have certain goes what a mine would be my feet. And they're not the prettiest but yeah I have to keep them healthy so don't around.
And some big moments on Saturday and seems to be incredibly highly thought of over there. Has you settled in how we do your observing. How is the mixing in with the group. Oh, he's used for US dollars. This is a huge character in the dressing room, first and foremost and on the pitch, he's been incredible every time I've played with him. He's been incredible and saying that to to blow his trumpet or anything. But he's actually one of the first names are on the team sheet and has been consistently since I've been there anyway.
And yeah, age doesn't seem to be a factor with him at all. He's bouncing, bouncing off the ground and yeah. Is, is engine is as high as ever. You know, he gets through an incredible amount of work and he is an invaluable member of our team. And yeah, all the guys love him and yeah, he's a great character. So hopefully he can sign on another year or two. Be great.
Yeah. I think what he is he thirty seven expert. I think so. And so I think what he said when you go into a Robotron the week is phenomenal stuff and seems to be doing really well.
How's his French coming along.
This French has improved a lot since my first year and he's doing really well. Yeah. He's well able to speak to the French guys and hold conversations with anybody, actually. And he's he's really, really good. Yeah. It'd be one of the best in the French class. I'm not in the French class anymore. I've graduated, thankfully, and but yeah, he'd be definitely the best out of himself and a few others. Yeah.
What did you have to do to graduate from the French class? Is there a test that you pass or did someone give you the OK.
No, I just remove myself from what I'm doing or over time consuming.
But how how's the French across the family then? The kids must be flying. The kids are getting on very well. Yeah, they're in the French school now and yeah, they moved from a bilingual school last year. So now they yeah, they're improving their understanding of the class and just speaking, I suppose that's the next stage. But they're understanding everything. They watch TV in French that they know any, I suppose, things we tell them to do in French and stuff.
Yeah. So they're getting on very well.
I've never looked into it. I don't know at what age. If, you know, if you leave a country at a young age, do you forget all your French? I mean there's obviously a certain point where you just have your French for life. I don't know if you know that. I don't know that, no, but thankfully, we have my father back at home who continue to speak French to them, where if we do decide to go back home one day to live in Ireland.
So, yeah, it's something I'd like to keep to keep with them. You know, I'd like to make sure they learn it fluently and stays with them.
So that wasn't a sneaky way. I'm asking you about your future, by the way. I was genuinely just wondering. So you're kind of brought up on Monster and 06 and 08 and European Odysseas Heineken Cup Final Cup final as it is now. That's kind of Holy Grail territory in your mind, I would think. Yeah.
Yeah, that's that's that's the biggest thing for me for sure. That's a trophy I've always dreamed of winning. I dreamt of winning. So and yeah, playing and playing in that competition, you know, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, get goosebumps every time. It's an incredible competition with incredible history playing against the best players. And I just love it. I love it, especially with all the history attached to it from from the province that I come from.
So and yeah, I get the chance to play in the final. I will be incredibly special and and hopefully I can make the selection and get out there.
We want the 06 or the 08 final. The memories of those days. Yeah.
I was in the in the in the stand in 06 with my uncle and then kind of watching the game and it was incredibly special this year. And then obviously watching on the big screens, watching and watching the scenes from Wall Street and stuff in Limerick was an incredible no no other place I support. Like that is incredible. And since then it's always been a dream to to lift that trophy. So and yeah, one more step away. So fingers crossed we can get the job done.
What do you like these big pressure games you've played in? Plenty of them. Are you do you find yourself already daydreaming, visualizing the final, you know, in the in the last couple of days? Do you put it in the long finger? I'll worry about it a couple of days before. What's your approach going to be between now and the seventeenth, you suspect?
I don't know. To be honest. Generally, the number one emotion would be excitement. And then anything after that, you just leave. Come, comes, you know, don't go and try anything specific. You know, I put it to the back of my mind or try not to think about it or try to overthink about things. You know, I just let the let the weeks and days leading into the game. I just let them flow and yeah, whatever my moods, like a couple of days out, I usually adjust the music to that way or, you know, adjust my training that way, you know, and and just try and.
Yeah. Do whatever I can to to play the best game. Okay. That's interesting.
So what do you mean when you say you might adjust your training depending on a certain mood.
What's an example of that though. If, if, if we've got a big, big game coming up and I find myself quite tense or something early in the week, you know, making a few errors or something in training early on the Monday or Tuesday, and I find the stress probably getting a little bit, then I just. Try and change, change the music or the soundtrack to the end of my week and play relaxing music, happy music, a little bit of Barry White, I don't know anything at all.
Coldplay, I don't know. You just name it and I'll play a relaxing song or a chilled out tune just to calm the nerves a little bit. And but generally it's overexcitement that will get me. But not not fear or you're going into yourself.
You can probably find yourself lucky. I mean, she's out the door of players who've been in here and said those forty eight hours before the game, the morning of the game are miserable. They are about anxiety and worry and fear of losing to you near the other end of the spectrum, which is it sounds like a much nicer place to be, I would say. Hmm.
Yeah, I enjoy the way it is for me and I've been up close and personal with the few players who to be at the opposite side. As you said, O'Gara, for instance.
I mean, you played with him. He hates the morning too much. I hate it.
Yeah. Yeah. He gets really stressed and things like that. And that's why sports is probably tailored to his position as well, you know, being about half and having all that responsibility on each individual cake and et cetera. You know, I suppose it does affect others differently. And personality would be a huge part of that, too. And yeah, I'm happy with where I put my pregame routines and things like that. It's just very relaxed because generally I get very excited and am.
Yeah, just trying to chill out is the goal.
OK, so where the Barry White on in the days before the final lets you trying to chill out. It's not a romance.
No Barua Alexandrea opportunity as long as. No, it's ok.
OK, well let's see if we can get on the Instagram. Gives you a pretty final playlist in the coming days. The last time around us, you made an interesting point. You were saying that you I mean, you want to make hay while the sun is shining. You wouldn't have the motivation really to play till thirty six, thirty seven, which is an interesting comment. Most players want to eek every second they can out of it. One aspect of the career is the grind.
The grind, I think it changes, it changes all the time, I suppose sometimes we'll be coming home and and your buddies and bits after after, you know, four or five games on the bounce. Sometimes it's pre-season. Sometimes it's the winter months when you're you're going training in the in the rain all the time. And your motivation could be low for family reasons, whatever reason, you know. So sometimes you your emotions would ebb and flow and you change from time to time.
But playing to playing to thirty six, thirty seven wouldn't really appeal to me too much. I'd like to to continue playing while I'm enjoying it and, and while I'm playing somewhat near my best anyway. You know, I don't want to fall off the edge of the cliff completely and just continue playing just for the sake of it. And I wouldn't have the engine like a donica right now to keep going that long in the fact that he's in and in the motivation that he has.
But, yeah, it changes. It changes from time to time. But as of now, I'm very, very happy and content and very excited and motivated and raring to go on chomping at the bit. But I just know that thirty five. Thirty six, that probably won't be the same case. Yeah.
I guess through the years go by so quickly. I mean it's very possible. We're talking here at thirty five and you're saying, well look I don't know what the last four years have gone but I'm still love my rugby.
Exactly. Exactly. You never know. I could change again, you know. Yeah.
I saw over in France the daily covid rated sixteen thousand a couple of days ago, which was their highest toll across this whole horrible saga. And fans are in stadiums now, which I guess is a step forward. What's the lay of the land over in Paris? Are restrictions very much enforced worldwide? What's daily life like out in about? Yeah, out and about, it's it's pretty much the same, I think everybody generally everybody is wearing masks now in public.
I think that's, you know, that's being enforced. We we had a change last weekend from five thousand spectators at stadiums, down to one thousand just before finals.
So I think they're trying to to, you know, flatten it a little bit, you know, especially with winter months coming up. So, yeah, it's been it's been quite similar with one or two changes here and there. But, yeah, as I said, we're kind of out in our own little bubble and in the suburbs here near Resing 92. So we are just trying to ourselves and stay out of the center as much as possible and yeah, give ourselves every opportunity to to continue our season and keep ourselves available for as many games as possible.
Yeah. And just the bubble within the team and within the training ground mean that when you walk in you can high five each other and you can just act as normal. Are they asking you to socially distance? I'm not sure the point of social distancing when you're about to go out onto a pitch and have lots of close contact. But in terms of the dressing room atmosphere, can you pretty much behave as you were able to a year ago?
No, no, it wouldn't be the same. Definitely not. We'd have every player as masks. Every player has their own little tube of hand gel. There's hand gel all over the training center. And, yeah, if you're if you're going to be any social rooms, you have to wear a mask in your room. You have to wear a mask. And with greeting each other, it's only a fist bump. And if you fist pump two or three players, you know, generally players are washing their hands immediately after anyway, you know.
So yeah, it's definitely not the same to what it has been. But, you know, obviously we play a game or a rugby ball is being passed around the pitch. So it's impossible to totally nullify that. But we're doing the best we can, that's for sure. Yeah. And that's the way it is. A hell of a lot different.
It does take some of the the fun, the color out of interaction, doesn't it? You strike me as someone who would be touchy feely and low, you know, interacting with team and hugs and smiles and jeez, the idea of masks and hand gel is just opposite end of the spectrum. Mhm.
Yeah. It's tough, it's tough. I, I, I saw a lot of that kind of way and, and especially with Donica both. Yeah. I was put on hold.
At the moment it doesn't seem like the touchy feely type in the same way. Maybe I'm reading them wrong. Not at all. Not at all. He's the polar opposite to me but yeah it is tough. It is tough. Hopefully we, we can get out of this sooner rather than later and get back to normal and get back to I.
I saw on your Twitter feed you were noting some of the shenanigans on the main streets of Cork and embarrassing. Was that the word you used. It's pretty grim when you see that happening in light of the efforts that people are making at large.
Yeah, it's disappointing, to be honest. Yeah. You see all the efforts people are making, as you said, and the restrictions that are in place for a reason is for people's own health and safety. And on even though it might not affect you, it could affect your loved ones, et cetera, et cetera. And it's just I don't think it's worth it just to just to, I suppose, have to the the crack like that or whatever.
You know, people's lives are at stake and people are working night and day to to keep people healthy. So I think probably showing a little bit more respect to those people is probably that much needed.
I saw like so many people you were paying close attention to and right behind the Black Lives Matter movement on the back of the George Floyd that and Brian Taylor and how many other instances you care to mention. So it's been an extraordinary year regarding the response that we've seen. I'm curious, closer to home, it's also been charged and things emerged during that time. We had the black Irish community coming forward telling their stories. There was a video of a black teenager, I think it was in Galway having the N-word repeatedly thrown at her.
There was that video of a Chinese woman being pushed into the wrong. You know, all this stuff was was going on here.
Your view of where we are, where Ireland is, your view of your own experiences in this country.
Shocking Pipestone, shocking experiences all the way up through to school sports as an adult to which in family life any any any area you name is.
I've had instances of racism thrown at me and other people I know and family members, etc. So I don't know what's an example of that, Simon.
My father being abused at petrol stations while I'm in the cars as it keeps on hurting gay pitches every second game, every time a game, a shirt with a shout from the sideline or from fellow players, there's show lines, you name it.
Yeah, socially. Barry's nightlife growing up in Cork as a teenager, hanging around car everywhere. It's literally everywhere. Yeah. That's not a place where it hasn't happened, unfortunately.
And I was talking I don't know, it's like kind of under your breath comment. Are we talking the N-word or are we talking like overt, horrible racism? Oh both.
Yeah, yeah. From sly little nasty comments to. Yeah. The worst things that you could hear come out of somebody mouth. I suppose so. Yeah it's it's. Yeah. It's not just Ireland though. It's, it's, unfortunately it's everywhere, as you can see on social media, it's a it's a cultural thing that needs to change. And yeah, it's very sad and it's just a. It's so it's annoying because it's such a stupid, stupid mentality and mindset, it's all backwards and that's probably the most frustrating thing about us.
But yeah, we try and rise above it, I suppose.
What effect did it have on you as a kid? Not too much, I, I. Well, not too much, I wouldn't say that was at the beginning. I suppose that probably affected me a little bit more when I didn't understand a little bit and the older I got. So I became a little bit more bulletproofed with both. Yeah, it was always going to annoy you or affect you. It's just. Yeah, it didn't make me go into my shell, thankfully, or anything that, but I can't speak for others, you know, and there's plenty of other people who would be more seriously affected by it.
So, yeah, it's very serious. And I don't know I don't know what needs to change to to combat it. But we're a long way away anyway where we come from to to be saying it's all good, you know.
So yeah. Yeah. And a bit of complacency can sometimes set in maybe you know and I didn't realize that was your experience a very difficult one for your father to try and explain to you when you're growing up, you know, when you're saying, what's all this about? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Very strange. Plenty plenty of one on one chats, plenty of sit downs and and explanations attempt to discuss them. Yeah. It is what it is. You just try and rise above it. And that's, that's what I've been taught since I'm young, that these people are ignorant, they're uneducated and you know, you're better than them. So just rise above it and then they don't react. And that's the the way you can expose them and deflate the balloon.
I don't know how to put it, but let's take the sting out of their. Yeah, exactly. Did you ever feel there was a value in confronting someone or did you try and turn the other cheek, let it go? I've got I've got recommended a couple of times in the future matches. To be fair, yeah, certain things have happened both. I suppose that was more towards my youth and inexperience at handling these kind of situations.
So, yeah, no, no, it hasn't. It hasn't happened in a while and I can't remember the last time it happened. So or something of that nature has happened. So yeah. I don't know how I would react. Now it's different when you have children and you're talking years of age and when you're a 16 year old boy, you know, full of, well, you know, X, Y and Z. So, yeah, just try and stay away, stay away from those people and try and stay out of being put into a situation like that.
That's why I suppose my experience would have led me to know. Right, OK.
So what have we got, 17 of October, just over two and a bit weeks till final time, are your top 14, is that coming thick and fast over the next while? Will you be playing much or is it is at rest and focus on one game? How does all this work?
No, we play Rajas Larochelle this weekend down in Larochette, which is due to be raining, unfortunately, but still excited to get out there. And it would be lovely.
It would be lovely to trash Rogers Larochelle in particular. It would be, yes, it would be. But I don't want to give them any ammunition. No, no, no, no. I said back. Not you. Not you. I said, yeah, that would be great. It would be great to get a result because we had a great start to the season. We undefeated at the moment. And, you know, it's been we've only played a handful of games.
But, you know, the confidence is how you the momentum is up there. And, yeah, things are going well. So we'll hopefully go down there and put on a good performance and and get which will be a very hard on will.
Grace, could you see yourself living in France long term when rugby is all done? You seem to really love it over there. I could see.
Yeah, you never know. I have a lot of family over here and close friends. Very close friends. No, I mean, I've spent nearly three years over here, so and yeah, we look we love my family, lost the culture, lost the lifestyle over here. And we feel very settled. So it's it's it's been great. And, you know, long term, my my fiancee comes from Spain, so the the climate's definitely helps.
So we'll see what happens.
OK, very good. Well, listen, I've kept you more than long enough. Thanks so much for your time. Again, congrats on the semifinal win and well, the very, very best look on the 17th. I hope it goes well for you. Thanks so much, Sunny.
Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thanks, Jeff.
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