Sunday 17 December 2017

Peter O'Mahony has 'absolute' confidence that the Lions can upset New Zealand this summer

Peter OMahony of Munster ahead of the European Rugby Champions Cup Semi-Final match between Munster and Saracens at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Peter OMahony of Munster ahead of the European Rugby Champions Cup Semi-Final match between Munster and Saracens at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster and Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony says that the Lions can 'absolutely' defeat New Zealand this summer with the 27-year-old one of 11 Irish players selected in Warren Gatland's 41-man squad.

Speaking at the Lions media day at the Syon Park Hotel in London on Monday, O'Mahony said that he is confident that the Lions will be able to pull off an upset win but that it was imperative that the players selected are able to gel on tour.

"Yeah absolutely," O'Mahony told 3News reporter and Sunday Independent columnist Sinéad Kissane when asked if the Lions can defeat the two-time defending world champions.

"You look at the squad that has been picked and it's a talented and competitive group of people. I have no doubt we're going to push ourselves as hard as we can.

"You just have to try and stay as positive as you can, but at the end of the day, it's about a group of people being as tight as possible in a short enough space of time to try and go do something special."

O'Mahony was overlooked by Gatland for the 2013 tour of Australia despite putting in some stellar performances in what was an otherwise disastrous Six Nations campaign for Ireland.

The Munster captain found himself on the outskirts of Joe Schmidt's squad at the start of this year's tournament, with the Ireland coach preferring Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien and CJ Stander to the Cork native.

However, with Ireland's line-out malfunctioning in both the Scotland and Wales games, O'Mahony was inserted into the starting line-up for Ireland's tournament finale against England in which he won the man of the match award.

The Corkonian will now tour with the Lions for the first time in his career this summer and revealed that he has sought the advice of current and former teammates before departing with the squad later this month.

"I have spoken to a lot of guys who have toured before and all their advice comes back to is just to immerse yourself in the Lions culture, and just be as you would be when you are with your club or your international team," added O'Mahony.

"There's a reason why we're picked and don't and get away from that and try and be something that you're not.

"Do what you're good at, and do what you've been picked for, and if everyone does that to the best of your ability, you're in with a good shout."

O'Mahony will most likely line-up for Munster this weekend as the province prepares for their Pro 12 semi-final with the Ospreys at Thomond Park on Saturday.

Munster thrashed provincial rivals Connacht 50-14 in their regular season finale on Saturday, but Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus insists that his side will not be getting carried away with their margin of victory, especially in light of last month's 26-10 drubbing at the hands of defending Champions Cup champions Saracens.

"You learn a lot against a team like Saracens because that's a pressurised game and if you lose that specific game you are out of the mix," Erasmus said after the Connacht game.

"A league game like this where you have already qualified, the pressure is off. You don't know what is going on in the other camp. The coach is leaving, it's your last game. There are a lot of emotions. Sometimes that pushes you, sometimes it pulls you down a little bit. It's difficult to read a lot into today's game. I'm glad for the guys who are not regular starters.

"The Saracens game, Saracens sometimes make you look like you're playing very conservatively but it's sometimes a result of pressure. When I say pressure, it's not a mental pressure, it's just a game pressure, a situational pressure.

"So sometimes you can look very one-dimensional against Saracens but that's not a result of your planning, it's a result of their effective pressure they put on you.

"It's very realistic to say that when that game was finished 'Oh, this is what it's about. That's why teams struggle so much against them. That's what they do really well.'

"So we are trying to take a lot from that, trying to apply that in games going forward. I'm not saying in any way that we are going to be successful doing that in the semi-final but we certainly learned a lot from playing Saracens, little things that sometimes don't catch the eye, even by coaches doing analysis during the week, which you see on a Monday, post-game during the review where you think 'the things they do there are just extra special'.

"We just accept that they were better than us, let's move on, we're playing in the Pro12 now."

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