Peter O’Mahony backs Munster’s young guns to step up to the plate against Wasps

Ireland backrow has been very impressed with how younger players have taken to task in hand

Peter O’Mahony: ‘That’s been a test as well for some of the leadership guys and the international guys who are still here. It’s been a really enjoyable couple of weeks for us.’ Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Peter O’Mahony: ‘That’s been a test as well for some of the leadership guys and the international guys who are still here. It’s been a really enjoyable couple of weeks for us.’ Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Supplemented by another 22 players aged 21 or under drawn from their underage pathways in addition to the five already there, Peter O’Mahony and the rest of Munster’s nine-strong international contingent have been getting to know a host of new faces, and the irony has not been lost on the province’s captain.

“I think I trained with a guy who was born in 2004 the other day,” O’Mahony noted with a smile, before adding: “Earlsie could have been his father we reckoned!

“I wouldn’t have come across him, there’s guys just out of school, but to see some of the talent that’s come on is incredible. It’s really encouraging for the club.”

In other respects too, O’Mahony preferred to accentuate the positives in what has been a decidedly unusual, and trying time for the organisation.

“Look, I’m not going to sit here and say it’s been ideal or what we were expecting. It’s been a challenge for us, but it’s been great to see some of the young fellas that mightn’t have popped into us over the next few months to be in and be a really important part of our training for the last two weeks.

“You get a real insight into what we’re producing in the academy and beyond. So it’s been great that way, getting to know the guys has been brilliant but there’s been loads of challenges.

“Normally when it comes to a European Cup week you’re kind of fine-tuning but we had sessions where we were going back to some of our core stuff, trying to get guys up to speed.

“That’s been a test as well for some of the leadership guys and the international guys who are still here. It’s been a really enjoyable couple of weeks for us.”

O’Mahony also sought to keep things in perspective, not only bearing in mind the 14 members of the original travelling party of 48 who have been quarantining in Cape Town hotel rooms, but previously challenging times for Munster.

“I’m sure it’s been very challenging for guys who are stuck in hotel rooms for 10 days, two weeks and longer,” he said before also taking into previous challenges, no doubt with the shock passing of Anthony Foley on the morning of their scheduled opening Champions Cup game against Racing in Paris five years ago in mind and the ensuing week before they hosted Glasgow.

“We’ve been through plenty in this club, certainly since I’ve been involved, and this certainly wouldn’t be up on top of the list of what we’ve gone through.

“No one has got very sick by all accounts, thank God, which is the main thing, that everyone’s healthy and we’ll get the boys home.

“We’ve had a good two weeks. We’ve been here training, unrestricted. There’s been great craic around the place. It has been certainly tough, as I said, but it certainly hasn’t been the most challenging week of my career yet.”

Another positive is the huge opportunity that is about to be presented to some of those aforementioned younger players, and without overburdening them with the task they will face against Wasps on Sunday.

“It’s daunting enough for them. You don’t want to make it harder than it is, they’re going to be putting themselves under enough pressure.

“We’re lucky, we’ve a big group of internationals who are left here who they can fall back on to. All I say [to them] is ask questions and enjoy yourselves.

“We’re going to put our best foot forward come Sunday regardless, it’s going to be brilliant. I just said let’s enjoy it, let’s put our best foot forward together, let’s ask questions, let’s go about this as best we can and learn together.

“Normally, we’d be fine-tuning. There’d be an edginess to it, you can get cross – but there’s been none of that the last two weeks, you couldn’t afford to be getting cross or guys not understanding, you have to understand where they’re coming from and help them along as best as you can.

“Most of all, enjoy it. They’re picked in the academy and the NTS (national talent squad) for a reason, they’ve shown they’ve got incredible talent and they want to bring that to the forefront. That’s the main objective.”

Even when Munster’s brace of URC games were called off and the 48-strong travelling party were caught in South Africa when tighter border controls were suddenly introduced, or at any time since, did O’Mahony doubt that Munster would not be able to fulfil next Sunday’s fixture.

“No, I didn’t to be honest with you. We’re hugely proud of our academy and our NTS squad, we produce a lot of players who play for Munster who grow up in the province and I knew having come through that system that we could fall back there and I’ve seen in the last two weeks what the guys have come in and done.

“In the session that I’ve just got off from now, young guys were running Wasps plays for us and they were incredible, it was a credit to them, to be fair to them.

“So it never crossed my mind, to be honest with you, that we wouldn’t be able to fulfil it.”

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