O’Mahony stresses need for collective performance to build victory platform
Munster backrow believes renewing provincial rivalries with Ireland team-mates will pose no problems
Peter O’Mahony and Sean Dougall durung a Munster squad training session at Mardyke Arena, UCC, Cork. Photograph: Inpho
As is the case for up to 17 of his prospective opponents amongst the Leinster match-day squad in Saturday’s showdown at the Aviva, if only three of his teammates, Peter O’Mahony strengthened bonds and enjoyed memorable new experiences during Ireland’s Six Nations-winning campaign.
Given the physical nature of rugby demands a willingness to hit opponents with an intensity bordering on those of a boxer, one imagines that would make renewing provincial rivalries with mates all the more difficult within a fortnight of riotous celebrations together.
“Every camp you go in, you become better friends,” admits O’Mahony. “I’ve some great friends from our Irish Under-20s team we’ve gone through, or even some of our schools’ team. I think there were six of us who travelled to Paris I’d be very close to.”
Yet O’Mahony maintains this also makes putting your body on the line easier in some respects. “It’s harder in some ways but it’s probably easier because of the repercussions of the banter and piss-taking that’s going to follow. It’s a huge occasion for both teams and especially leading into the following week,” he said in reference to Heineken Cup quarter-final week. “It’s such a big game for both sides. There’s always a huge amount riding on it and it’s probably a bit easier looking across at the fella you know that little bit more.”
Expanding, O’Mahony said: “It’s a huge group of unbelievably competitive fellas. Everyone, whether I’m training with Ireland or Munster, wants to win, and that probably makes it that little bit more special when you’re playing against each other and you’ve bragging rights for afterwards. But we’re at the business end of the season and every four points in the Rabo is hugely important. Both teams are looking for a home semi-final so every game in the Rabo has a huge impact as a result of the time of year.”
If anyone has the greater insight into the other’s mindset and way of playing, it is surely Munster, although aside from Leinster playing differently under Matt O’Connor, the Munster captain reckons the familiarity between the sides has long since been well established.
“We spend so much time together in Six Nations camps, and November camps, and summer tours and whatever, we probably know each other that little bit more. So it makes it harder I suppose to break each other down, but that’s probably why it’s such a physical, collision-orientated game.”
The emotion and passion will “take care of itself” and while Leinster’s front-liners may be more match-hardened he accepted Munster may be fresher. Nor was O’Mahony grasping the notion there is more pressure on Leinster as the home team and favourites.
“I think there’s a huge amount of pressure on both teams. I think it’s a huge week for both. There’s a huge amount at stake (on Saturday), but the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup is the following week for both teams, so I think it’s a huge primer and you want to be as good as you can be for the following week.”
Reiterating Munster’s mantra this week of playing as a collective rather than individuals seeking to make points, O’Mahony admitted there were “a huge amount of things” that made Leinster league champions and leaders with three successive European trophies in their cabinet. “They’ve an unbelievable quality of player. They’ve a great coach, they’ve had a great coach over the last couple of years, they believe in their game plan; everything that makes a great European team, they have. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to know what makes them so good.”
He admitted: “It will take a huge collective performance, and that’s when we’re at our best. When we’re firing as a forward pack and we’re getting good ball to the backs. You’ve seen it this year probably in glimpses and some very good performances, but this isthe biggest Rabo game of the year.”