Thursday 22 March 2018

O'Mahony unlucky to miss out in tough call - Gatland

Peter O'Mahony during a Lions training session at Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua, New Zealand. Photo: Sportsfile
Peter O'Mahony during a Lions training session at Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua, New Zealand. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Peter O'Mahony spoke of his Lions dream after being selected to captain the side for last week's first Test, but he is in nightmare territory having been stripped of that leadership role and dropped from the match-day 23 altogether for tomorrow's game.

Warren Gatland informed the Corkman of his decision in a private meeting before announcing his team to face the All Blacks in Wellington yesterday and he said it was not an easy call to make.

However, the writing has been on the wall for the Munster skipper, whose performance in the 30-15 defeat in Auckland last Saturday was just not good enough to keep tour captain Sam Warburton out of the team.

Gatland wants to slow the New Zealand ball down and has chosen his long-term Wales ally for his breakdown ability. His form is patchy and fitness questionable, but Warburton's recall was well-flagged.

When the coach was considering his impact options from the bench, O'Mahony's Munster team-mate CJ Stander got the nod.

"It was a tough call," Gatland said. "We looked at that and felt it was an opportunity to bring in Sam and Maro (Itoje) who both made an impact off the bench last week.

"We need to get some pressure on the ball and that's something Sam is excellent at doing and he has got some rugby under his belt now.

"We could have put Peter on the bench and we had a long discussion about that, but CJ Stander has had an outstanding Six Nations and was good the other night with his carries and his physicality, so the impact he is able to bring off the bench could be significant.

"Look, Peter has been very unlucky. He has done a great job for us in terms of the games he has been involved in and the captaincy.

"He's unlucky enough that we can have good choices and can make changes and use different combinations.

"Sam is well aware of his role and making sure defensively he gets pretty hard off the line and wins those defensive collisions. We saw that when he came on, the impact that he had. Hopefully that combination with Sean O'Brien works effectively.

"Sean has had an outstanding tour to date and I think the balance of those two will be pretty good."

Warburton praised O'Mahony's influence during his two games as captain and said the Munster man had been magnanimous in handing over the leadership role.

"Pete was one of the first guys I wanted to go and congratulate when they picked that first Test team," he said.

"I think he has done a brilliant job over the past two Saturdays as captain and I think everyone in the squad would agree.

"Today he was one of the first players to come up to me as well."

Irish Independent

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