Sunday 25 August 2019

Peter O'Mahony insists Ireland won't be 'undercooked' after warm-ups

Marks and Spencer ambassador Peter O’Mahony says Ireland are monitoring the opposition ahead of the World Cup. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Marks and Spencer ambassador Peter O’Mahony says Ireland are monitoring the opposition ahead of the World Cup. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Before they turned their focus to matters at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday, many of the Ireland players had one eye on what was unfolding in Perth.

What they saw was confirmation of what many had thought for a couple of years now - the gap between New Zealand and the chasing back is as narrow as it has been for some time.

Yes, Scott Barrett's red card late in the first half played a key role in Australia managing to put 47 points on the world champions, but the fact is, even before his dismissal, the Wallabies were well on top and were dominating the contact area.

It's not often you can say that about an All Blacks team and while we can expect to see a major backlash in the return game this weekend, there is no doubt that they are not as strong as the team who conquered all before them at the last World Cup.

Prepared

Switching from the Bledisloe Cup game to Ireland's first hit-out of the season was always likely to see a major dip in intensity and skill level, but even still, it raised the nagging issue for some that southern hemisphere teams will be better prepared by the time they arrive in Japan next month.

Of course, it can work both ways in that teams from this part of the world are fresher, but that all-important match sharpness in such a competitive environment has fine-tuned the likes of Australia and South Africa, who are increasingly looking like they could go all the way in Japan.

"I've kept an eye on most of those games," Peter O'Mahony admits. "It's no shock really, how competitive they all are now all of a sudden, when it's coming into the World Cup. Rassie (Erasmus) has done a great job with South Africa. There were some seriously impressive performances from them.

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"Obviously the All Blacks are the All Blacks, and you saw how dangerous Australia were against them, you know 47 points scored. So, it's going to be unbelievably competitive whoever gets to go and compete. You'd be hard pushed to put your name on a team that would be an out-and-out favourite at the moment."

Ireland will take a considerable step up in quality for their remaining three warm-up games as next week's trip to Twickenham is followed by back-to back meetings with the Six Nations champions Wales.

That will inevitably increase the risk of injury, yet getting into their groove and hitting the ground running in Japan is imperative for Joe Schmidt's side.

"Yeah look, obviously we played Italy at the weekend, we now have England and Wales-Wales, it's not like we're going in with three or four handy ones," O'Mahony reasons.

"I thought Italy were quality at the weekend and we're going into arguably two of the teams who are going to be competing for this competition (World Cup).

"They're going to be solely our focus now because if you look past either one of them, you're staring down the barrel of 40-50 points - they are that good.

"Obviously Wales are Grand Slam champions. They had the chance to go to number one, best team in the world, and England - you saw the squad they picked, they're a seriously impressive side.

"I've heard a bit of this rumour that we'll be undercooked, but they're three serious games that we have coming up, England being the first one."

All the noises coming out of the Ireland camp suggest that there is no fear of this squad being undercooked. Everything has been planned in meticulous detail, right down to Schmidt choosing 2pm kick-offs for the home games because that is the hottest time of the day.

There will be a big difference in the conditions in Dublin and Japan, but this is the level of detail that we are talking about in order to give Ireland the best possible chance of succeeding over the coming months.

"There certainly won't have been a rock unturned," O'Mahony insists.

"They've gone through everything with a fine tooth comb to try and get us as well prepared as possible. It's certainly going to be more difficult.

"You just have to grin and bear it and get on with it, but they're certainly putting as many factors as possible in to get us right for it."

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