Joe Schmidt believes O'Mahony can lead by example in pressure Test
Joe Schmidt has hailed new Lions captain Peter O'Mahony as the Corkman prepares to lead the tourists into battle against New Zealand in tomorrow's first Test.
The Ireland coach is watching from afar in Japan where he named his team to face the Brave Blossoms in the final game of his side's season tomorrow morning, but he found time to congratulate his back-row forward who has propelled himself from being outside the Ireland team to starting in the biggest game of the season as skipper.
O'Mahony is a leading contender to captain Ireland in the future having had the honour on three occasions to date and the New Zealander was effusive in his praise ahead of the biggest day of the 27-year-old's career.
"I'm delighted for Pete. I've known him for a number of years and he has started a heck of a lot of games for Ireland over the last number of years I've been involved," Schmidt said.
"He's a player who had to fight a long road back from injury, really a nine-month injury.
"The Lions have picked a really strong lineout and I think they are going to put a lot of pressure on the All Blacks lineout, and he's tough and he does all those other bits and pieces. I am delighted for him.
"I texted it when he got named captain for New Zealand Maori game. He was over the moon and absolutely determined to put his best foot forward to play well and by doing that he would lead well. I think he had things the right way around. Pete is smart as well as tough, and he's athletic, which makes him the lineout operator that he is."
- Read more: Peter O'Mahony to use Anthony 'Axel' Foley's mantra when he leads the Lions against the All Blacks
Ahead of the opening Test at Eden Park, Warren Gatland believes the Lions will approach the game wanting to play an expansive game if the weather allows after selecting the exciting combination of Liam Williams, Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly in his back-three.
"The weather conditions aren't going to make any difference, if it's dry it's dry, we're happy to play in dry conditions, and we need to go and play some rugby," he said.
"We don't want to play a set-piece-orientated game, we have been able to keep the ball on phases of play and we've created chances," he added. "We know we haven't finished all the opportunities that we've created but we started to look pretty exciting and pretty dangerous on Tuesday night and as I've said it's time together that's made the difference."