Peter O’Mahony ready to lead by example as Munster gear up for Gloucester test
Captain says Rob Penney’s side are now in cup mode – one more defeat and they’re out
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony in training with the squad at Limerick University yesterday. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
As a man of action, and a leader by deed rather than word of mouth, being a non-playing captain sits particularly uneasily with Peter O’Mahony. Not even his role as waterboy relaying information from the sidelines is much of a substitute, not least when his team is imploding in Murrayfield.
“It is a tough place to be but we’ve plenty of senior players in the group who are well able to speak and captain sides and lead a Munster team. So I didn’t feel like I had to but it is a tough place to be when you are seen as a leader but you can’t really pipe up if you haven’t got an action to do.”
O’Mahony, of course, did not play after suffering suspected concussion against Leinster when replaced at the interval moments after seemingly being knocked out when his head came into contact with Sean Cronin’s knee. Even though Munster insisted he had been rested against Edinburgh and had been cleared of concussion, he now returns. “I felt very good even last week but 100 per cent this week and am raring to go.”
It’s almost as if Munster have to do this to themselves and, ala the cup wins of 2006 and ’08, a fourth opening defeat in the last five years places them in the traditional time-honoured, backs-against-the-wall place; the place they know best.
“We have five cup games left, that’s the way we’re looking at it. It’s cup rugby from now on. That’s the result of losing your first game; you’re into cup rugby. It’s semi-finals and quarter-finals from now on. If we lose we’re out.”
In this, of course, it has echoes of previous campaigns, not least a year ago after opening loss away to Racing Metro, and there was the reprieve of Craig Laidlaw’s penalty hitting the bar and thus not denying Munster a bonus point.
“It’s almost a carbon copy. It’s not a great place to be; your first game and you’re almost on the back foot. But Rob (Penney) made the point that we have a bonus point.
“We’d probably be in big trouble if that ball had been the other side of the crossbar. The good thing is we’ve another opportunity this weekend.”
It seems a tad unfair that whenever Munster lose the Rob Penney game plan is cited, and whenever they win, it is attributed to the players. But there has been an effective balance to Munster’s game plan this season, notably against Leinster, whereas last Saturday’s defeat appeared as much to do with the mental attitude, as manifest in curious lineout and defensive malfunctions.
“Nobody talks about it when we win and all of a sudden it becomes an issue when we lose,” said a slightly exasperated O’Mahony. “Our game plan is based around our physicality and when we don’t implement ourselves, any game plan, regardless of what game plan it is, is going to be useless when it is rugby. It is a physical contact sport. If you’re not winning contacts or not winning carries, it doesn’t matter if you are the All Blacks . . if you’re not winning those collisions you are going to look ordinary.