Sunday 20 May 2018

Eddie O'Sullivan backs Sam Warburton and Owen Farrell to start over Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton

Peter O'Mahony, right, and Maro Itoje of the British & Irish Lions during the match between Auckland Blues and the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Peter O'Mahony, right, and Maro Itoje of the British & Irish Lions during the match between Auckland Blues and the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Former Ireland Head Coach Eddie O'Sullivan has said that he believes that Lions captain Sam Warburton will start ahead of Peter O'Mahony in this Saturday's opening Test against the All Blacks in Auckland.

With O'Mahony, Ireland teammate Sean O'Brien and Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau the stand-out performers in the back-row on tour, many have tipped Warburton to start from the bench for the opening test, with Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland claiming last week that his tour captain 'will cop it on the chin' should he fail to secure a place in the starting XV.

Should Warburton miss out on selection for the opening Test, O'Mahony has been touted as his successor for the captaincy, however, O'Sullivan, who was an assistant coach on the 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand, doesn't actually believe that Gatland will follow through with leaving his captain on the bench.

"I think Toby Faletau was always going to play number eight, particualrly the way he's played on the tour, he's played very well to be fair to him," O'Sullivan told RTE Radio 1.

"Then the backrow I think there's two slots left. I think in Sean O'Brien they probably have a need for that, but I think for Peter O'Mahony to make it in you have to drop Sam Warburton as captain, and I just don't know if he'll go that far.

"Warburton is a big time player. He seemed to have a mediocre Six Nations but then when chips are down and it's a crunch game, he pulls out a big one. He has a reputation for having massive performances under pressure.

"I think he'll add Sam Warburton, and I think O'Brien will get in and so will Faletau, so Peter O'Mahony will lose out there."

O'Sullivan said that he also sees former Leinster centre Ben Te'o partnering Wales international Jonathan Davies in the midfield, meaning Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw would miss out, while in the halves, he believes Munster scrum-half Conor Murray will pair with Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell.

"In the midfield [Gatland] he'll go for more power with Jonathan Davies and Ben Te'o," added O'Sullivan.

"Te'o has featured in all the important games and has played well, and Conor Murray is nailed down with Owen Farrell to be the nine and ten. I don't see him going with the first and second five-eights with Farrell and Sexton.

"We did it in 05' with Stephen Jones and Jonny Wilkinson and it certainly didn't work then."

Warren Gatland will name his side for the opening test at 8pm this evening.

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