Saturday 22 July 2017

O'Mahony: We know how good we can be and how good we are

Flanker insists Ireland 'one per cent' away from recapturing autumn form

Peter O’Mahony shows his disappointment after the defeat to Wales but he and ireland are determined to bounce back. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Peter O’Mahony shows his disappointment after the defeat to Wales but he and ireland are determined to bounce back. Photo: SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

There may be plenty of beaten Irish dockets at Cheltenham this week but a defiant Peter O'Mahony insists that Joe Schmidt's flagging Irish side won't be one of them.

Despite the inordinate task of trying to reverse a desperately disappointing away defeat - the second of the tournament - by derailing England's world record attempt on Saturday, the Munster captain insists his side can still match the world's best.

Their Chicago victory last November may be receding further into the rear-view mirror as they survey the wreckage of a third successive tournament flop (including the World Cup) following back-to-back Six Nations triumphs, but O'Mahony insists his side are merely a small step away from producing something to rival their heroics against the All Blacks.

And the Munster flanker also resists the growing clamour for change among frustrated fans; although he may be introduced to a faltering lineout and mis-firing back-row, Schmidt will be reluctant to produce a dramatic scalpel to his under-firing side.

"We've been here before, we've won championships and our plans haven't changed since a couple of years ago," said O'Mahony.

Little things

"We have beaten Australia and New Zealand. It can't be that far away and guys know that. It's the little things at the weekend that let us down.

"We have solutions within, and we just need to drag it out. You can't have wholesale change. Guys will always buy in because they matter a huge amount to you and you've been through so much with them.

"Just because you have lost two games, you can't throw the toys out. If anything, you have to get it even more tighter and drive on.

"Four months ago we would be having a different conversation here. It's not a completely different group or we haven't changed the game-plan in any way.

"We certainly took confidence out of November into the Six Nations. But that's a long way past now. We know how good we can be and how good we are. It is just we need to figure out a way to just finish that last percent to get back there."

O'Mahony has backed captain Rory Best after stirring criticism from former out-half Ronan O'Gara as Ireland continue to opt for catch-and-drive gambits from penalty awards; they have done so 70pc of the time this tournament, without appreciable success.

O'Mahony, however, claims that inaccuracies have foiled his side, after they blew five different scrum and lineout chances close to the Welsh line on Friday, following similar deficiencies exposed in the opening defeat in Edinburgh.

"Look, Rory's a quality player and captain," O'Mahony said stridently.

"You'd follow Rory anywhere and any decision he makes, you know there's 14 fellas on the pitch who'd follow him and back him, whatever he goes for.

"And it's not just Rory, it's input from a few guys on the team. They are decisions that have to be made and if we to go back in hindsight I would have made those decisions myself and I would have backed Rory myself.

"They're decisions you make in the heat of the moment and I thought they were the right decisions at the time. There was never a decision where I went 'I would have gone the other way'.

"You're going to back him every time with the quality he is. They are decisions you make in the heat of the moment."

O'Mahony seems the most likely addition to Schmidt's side - Jared Payne will also push for at least a bench berth or Rob Kearney's 15 jersey - with his lineout skills likely to help both befuddled thrower and lineout caller Devin Toner.

CJ Stander's early withdrawal in Cardiff, combined with Schmidt's preference for Jamie Heaslip, mean Sean O'Brien's place could be under threat; the loosehead props may also rotate.

O'Mahony was reticent when asked to trumpet his chances, however; it as if nobody dares to question the state of a squad that is demonstrably failing to replicate former glories.

"They know us all and the kind of players we are," he answered politely.

"If I am selected, you bring no different to what you've always brought to the table over the last six weeks in training, in camp or what I've brought when I've come on in the last couple of weeks.

"If they pick me, they pick me for a reason. If they don't, they want me to come off the bench and make an impact.

Emotions

"I've tried to not to change my emotions in any way over the last few weeks. You're there to prepare, whether it's for the starting 15 or the 23, as best you can.

"I was unfortunate to get a couple of weeks off at the start due to a hamstring injury but since then, you just try to do your very best to perform.

"So they know the score. I don't have to put my hand up and list off what I might or mightn't bring. It's completely up to them.

"We always expect a huge amount off our bench. I'd like to hope you'd fit in and you try and bring something different."

Irish Independent

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