Thursday 19 July 2018

'He didn't say anything to me so I presumed I wasn't playing' - Peter O'Mahony on shock of being named Lions captain

15 June 2017; Peter O'Mahony, right, and head coach Warren Gatland during a British and Irish Lions press conference at the Matariki Cultural Centre in Rotorua, New Zealand. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
15 June 2017; Peter O'Mahony, right, and head coach Warren Gatland during a British and Irish Lions press conference at the Matariki Cultural Centre in Rotorua, New Zealand. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Peter O'Mahony had an eventful summer, going from being made Lions captain for the first test in New Zealand to missing out on a place in the squad for the final two clashes with the All Blacks.

And in an exclusive interview with The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast, the Ireland and Munster star reveals that even his tour highlight was a rollercoaster of emotions.

Listen and subscribe to The Left Wing on iTunes and Soundcloud.

O'Mahony was selected to join a select club ahead of the first test when he was named team captain for the opener at Eden Park, but the blindside flanker actually thought he had been dropped ahead of the announcement.

The 28-year-old made a big impression in warm-up victories against the Crusaders and the New Zealand Maori, with Gatland selecting O'Mahony as captain for the latter fixture.

However, despite excelling in the leadership role, O'Mahony thought he had missed out on first test selection after not getting a heads up from Gatland.

"The Thursday before the New Zealand Maori game he asked me at breakfast if I would captain the side and that was the end of that conversation," O'Mahony told Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery.

"I know, it wasn't as glamorous as you thought you were gonna hear. Before the test he didn't say anything to me. I thought I was out to be honest because normally you would be asked that and the fact that I wasn't, I presumed I wasn't going to be playing. Then he named the team with captain after me so it was a bit of a shock.

"When that happens you have about five minutes to be shocked and then you have to get on with it because you are two days from one of the biggest tests of your life."

New Zealand won the first test 30-15 and O'Mahony was the unlucky player who lost out, moving from the starting team to outside the 23 after Gatalnd opted to restore tour captain Sam Warburton to the first team.

Similarly to how he was given the good news by the head coach, they had a brisk discussion when O'Mahony was left out.

"It was very similar - 'Sam is in. You're out. Best of luck, kid,'," O'Mahony said with a laugh.

"There was no 'best of luck, kid', he just said he was going with Sam and that is the way it goes. That is life."

The Munster flanker was a frustrated and supportive on-looker for the final two tests as the Lions dug out a series draw, although O'Mahony disputes the notion that the squad would have taken that result at the beginning of the tour.

"I don't think I would, I don't play rugby to go out and a draw a series," he said.

"You go out to win. Look at the other 40 guys alongside you, you had all the tools to go out and win a tour in New Zealand. I know it sounds a bit brave afterwards but you don't have guys on that tour who are going to be content with that."

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Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

Listen and subscribe to The Left Wing on iTunes and Soundcloud.

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