LIONHEARTED Munster captain Peter O’Mahony has had some hugely physical back-row tussles over the course of the Six Nations with Ireland and is expecting another one tomorrow.
With the way Munster like to play, the back-row battle is always going to be key but it could the deciding factor against Edinburgh in Murrayfield, 12.45pm.
With Hamish Watson and John Barclay on the flanks and Bill Mata at eight, speed and power have become a key element of Edinburgh’s forward play this season and, with a strong scrum and an accurate line-out, O’Mahony has a fair idea of what to expect tomorrow afternoon in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final.
“They have a very impressive set-piece both sides of the ball, scrum and line-out,” says O’Mahony ahead of tomorrow’s clash.
“We probably say it about every game but it is going to be particularly important this weekend.
“The battle of the line-out and the scrum. They are very impressive in both areas.
“It’s your best performances is going to have to be the ones that you perform this time of the year.”
The captain certainly wasn’t too enamoured with the way his side performed last Saturday against Zebre in Thomond Park but the way the Munster maul performed in the second half tempered some of his disappointment.
“The first-half isn’t where we wanted to be. That try was certainly important before the break (for Munster).
“It was a good performance in the second half and as we spoke about, three maul tries is something that we would be very happy with. Set-piece was good so there is plenty of good to build on as well.”
O’Mahony has had little time to dwell on a Six Nations campaign that failed to ignite properly but says moving from the national set-up to his second family doesn’t present an issue for him.
“I don’t find it particularly hard,” he said. “It’s too big a week not just to slot back in or hang around and kind of act differently or be quiet because it’s knockout in Europe.
“I’d be doing myself an injustice if I didn’t come back in and just be myself along with all the other guys who have been away the last few weeks.
“We’ve just got to get back in and carry on as if we’ve been here all the time.
“We’ve been here plenty of times, that you finish up and you get a few days off and you’re back into the biggest game of the year for the club.
“So it’s not something that we’re new to or will be an issue during the week. Just something that has to be done.”
It shows how much the face of Irish rugby has changed when it is no longer with three wins and two losses but the Corkman thought some of the reaction afterwards to the Six Nations was ‘strange’.
For him it is done, dusted and put away and now it is on to Munster’s biggest game of the season so far and a chance to make the semi-finals of the competition.
Experience has shown the Munster captain that you have to accept bad days at the office and just learn to move on just as he has done with the Six Nations.
“I’ve been in plenty of days like Cardiff. What you do, you have to get on with it.
“It’s not the ideal one because you don’t have one after it but that’s life, that’s the game we play in.
“I’ve certainly learned to do it better but I think there was a strange reaction to some of the stuff that’s been going on for the last few weeks, to be honest, but that’s part of it.
“I mean, we’ve won 22 of the 25 games or something (with Ireland),” he added.
“I just felt there was a bit of a strange reaction to it but look, this is part of the game we’re in and I’ve certainly learned better over the last few years to say ‘right, that’s done now’. Because, as I said, it’s too big a week for me to be hanging around.
“I had a nice few days off, spent some time with the family and back in here to a great buzz.
“You can tell straight away when there’s Europe coming up. It’s good to be back.”
This weekend’s referee is Pascal Gauzere, the ref in charge of the third summer Test in Australia when O’Mahony was illegally taken out in the air by Isreal Falou.
He says he has no issue with the Frenchman.
“I feel for referees a huge amount of the time, the amount of stuff they have to look after and the amount of things that go on in rugby games these days but we’re talking nine months ago at this stage, I’ve been adjudicated by Pascal a good few times after that so I think we’re on good terms anyway,” he says with a big smile.
“You’ll have to ask him his side of it.”