Munster ready to embrace new era minus the services of O’Gara and Howlett
Heineken Cup remains a realistic target says new Munster captain Peter O’Mahony
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony: “Just because Rog and Dougie are gone doesn’t mean that the mentality of this club is going to change for a second.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
One might assume that the loss of the record scorer in the Heineken Cup and also New Zealand’s top try scorer of all time might leave a gaping chasm in Rob Penney’s squad, but O’Mahony says they have moved on already.
As usual, the Heineken Cup will be Munster primary target in 2013-14, and after coming so close to reaching a fifth final last year, O’Mahony wants his charges to push on again this season despite losing two of their most experienced players.
“Just because Rog and Dougie are gone doesn’t mean that the mentality of this club is going to change for a second.
“The Heineken Cup is where our bar is at and we want to win the Heineken Cup every year we go out. Certainly, our domestic season wasn’t good enough last season, and it’s a thing that we’re certainly having a look at the moment and a thing that we’re going to be much more focused on this year,” said O’Mahony.
But despite his claims that the status quo has been retained, O’Mahony still found it a little eerie facing into pre-season without the pair.
“Yeah, it is strange. I haven’t been around as long as Donncha O’Callaghan and these guys so it must be weird for them, but you miss them in the dressing room . . .
“ It’s interesting to see how guys have developed already when two big figures have gone,” he said.
Being asked to follow in the footsteps of Howlett, Paul O’Connell, Anthony Foley and Mick Galwey at the age of 23 is a measure of the progress O’Mahony has made since Tony McGahan gave him his debut in 2010.
Meanwhile, Connacht coach Pat Lam believes that the capture of Super 15 winning captain Craig Clarke will be a cornerstone as he tries to develop the side over the next few seasons.
Connacht pulled off quite a coup in securing the services of Clarke for the next three years and the 6ft 7in Kiwi signed off on his time in his native land at the weekend by leading the Waikato Chiefs to the Super 15 title for the second year in succession.
Clarke is due to arrive in Galway next week after Connacht return from a five-day camp in France which includes a friendly with Top 14 champions Castres tomorrow.
“It is a huge signing. To have the captain of the back-to-back Super Rugby champions is fantastic. It is fantastic that he will bring such leadership to what we have already got and we are looking forward to him arriving next week,” said Lam.
Connacht went after Clarke’s signature when experienced Irish lock Mike McCarthy decided to join Leinster in December. Lam was appointed Connacht coach shortly after that and set about completing the deal.