O'Mahony: Fans need to see our hunger
THOSE who put together the table plans at the post-match banquet might have caused an international incident last weekend if things had turned out differently.
Pairing Tevita Kuridrani and Peter O'Mahony might have meant nothing to the planners before last Saturday's evening kick-off, but by full-time they would have been sweating after the Australian centre was sent-off for picking the Ireland flanker off his feet, turning him upside down and dropping him on his neck.
By the time they sat down, however, the tension had been diffused, but as Fijian-born Kuridrani embraced the man he had wronged in the dressing-room, the incident was being played out on television and being pointed to as the moment that best encapsulated Ireland's lack of intensity.
Anyone in the stadium with a 'ref-link' radio picked up the Munster captain's fury as he – thankfully – was able to get to his feet and chase his transgressor down, but what was notable was that his team-mates didn't react.
Kuridrani saw red and later apologised, but the feeling lingered that Ireland had been bullied. They can't let the same flatness seep in again tomorrow against the All Blacks.
"I can't really put my finger on it," O'Mahony says of Ireland's lack of intensity last weekend. "We definitely weren't right come kick-off. I certainly felt good all week, like we had the detail but we weren't accurate in the first 20 minutes.
"We had balls down and line-outs missed, and it was uncharacteristic from the people who made those errors. It was put to bed early in the week, it was dealt with and we have to move on now and be right for the weekend.
"I wouldn't say the boys were leaving me on my own – maybe if it had happened at another time of the game it would have been different.
"We were kind of under the pump points-wise and the minds were probably elsewhere – get the ball down the line and get on with the game. To be fair to the lads, their decision was right not to get stuck in, we needed points."
As for the Wallaby centre, there are no hard feelings after the duo reconciled in the dressing-room and then enjoyed an evening together as if nothing had happened.
"I was p*ssed off when it happened, because it was a dangerous incident, but rugby is a physical game and he apologised afterwards and I accepted his apology," he said.
"He's a sound fella, he was at my table afterwards. I'm not going chasing it up or holding grudges. These things happen.
"He came into the dressing-room after and came straight over and gave me a big hug. That was the end of it."
O'Mahony, like most Irish rugby-mad boys, had an All Black jersey hanging alongside his Ireland and Munster replicas. He grew up admiring tomorrow's opponents and got to know them at close quarters when playing in all three Tests on the summer tour of 2012.
Although suspended for the game, he was captain of the Ireland U-20 squad in 2009 who stood up to the Haka and then gave the eventual Junior World Cup winners their closest game.
He knows the black jersey represents the benchmark and is fully aware of Ireland's dreadful record against the best team in the world, but says he is not afraid of history.
"It's important not just for the supporters but for ourselves to show that we have made progress over the last couple of weeks," he says of the final game of a desperately disappointing 2013.
"Guys love playing for Ireland and it is the end of the world when you lose in that jersey, it's elation in the dressing-room afterwards when you've won.
"There's history to be made this weekend as well. That's at the back of our minds, there is a job to be done and it will be special if we do the job properly.
"Ireland have beaten everyone else in the world and it definitely is a big weekend especially for guys like Drico.
"The key is pressure. You have to put pressure on these guys. The thing is, with a lot of teams you pressure on one and they're in trouble. But with New Zealand you have to put it on 1-15; and when they do win the ball, everything needs to be 100pc. It is a different challenge and one the guys are fired up for.
"We need a performance from an Irish team who look hungry and proud to wear the jersey. The fans need to see it in us, how much it means to us and the 15 on the field have to put our bodies on the line."