Friday 22 September 2017

O'Mahony backed to thrive as Lions captain

 

Peter O’Mahony, who will captain the Lions on Saturday. Photo: Sportsfile
Peter O’Mahony, who will captain the Lions on Saturday. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree has hailed Peter O'Mahony's leadership credentials after the PBC, Cork Constitution, Munster and Ireland blindside was selected to lead the Lions into Saturday's first Test against New Zealand.

The 27-year-old will win his first Lions cap at Eden Park and has been handed the captaincy as Warren Gatland sticks with the form back-row, meaning Seán O'Brien keeps tour skipper Sam Warburton on the bench.

Peter O'Mahony was selected to lead the Lions into Saturday’s first Test against New Zealand. Photo: PA
Peter O'Mahony was selected to lead the Lions into Saturday’s first Test against New Zealand. Photo: PA

There is no place for Johnny Sexton in the starting XV as Owen Farrell returns from injury and Ben Te'o lines up at inside centre. The Ireland out-half is among the replacements.

The big surprise was Gatland's back-three selection, with Liam Williams starting at full-back and Elliot Daly on the left wing. Leigh Halfpenny is on the bench, while George North misses out altogether.

Tadhg Furlong makes his first Test start at tighthead, while Jack McGrath is alongside Sexton among the replacements.

Alun Wyn Jones, who captained the Lions in the 2013 decider, gets the nod over Maro Itoje but the coach has stuck with O'Mahony as his leader on his first Test outing as a Lion.

Peter O'Mahony in action for PBC. Photo: Sportsfile
Peter O'Mahony in action for PBC. Photo: Sportsfile

And Rowntree, who played alongside Paul O'Connell in 2005 before coaching him in 2009 and 2013, has seen big similarities between the two Munster men.

"He's got the respect of the group by his actions and not just by what he's been saying as a captain," he said.

"(He) gets on with things, it's that Munster kind of aggression around everything we do in training, determination, almost 'follow me, lads.'

"He has that Paul O'Connell kind of DNA in him, being a Munster man. He's a good guy as well, very diligent, not afraid in training of saying, 'Lads, this isn't good enough'. He's pulling along the standards, along with the coaches.

"You look at his game last Saturday night - involvements high and effective, aggressive. He dealt with the referee well, respectfully speaking without being in his ear too much.

"I've enjoyed working with him. I've coached against him for a long time and he's always a bloody handful when you're playing against Ireland. He's performed well."

Meanwhile, New Zealand have recalled captain Kieran Read and centre Ryan Crotty after their injuries, while Reiko Ioane is a surprise selection, pipping Julian Savea to the No 11 shirt to make his first international start.

Irish Independent

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