Axel’s spirit can help Peter drive Lions to Test success

Axel’s spirit can help Peter drive Lions to Test success
British and Irish Lions captain Peter O'Mahony in Eden Park. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

PETER O’Mahony's pre-game speech tomorrow against the All Blacks will pay tribute to one of his boyhood heroes Axel Foley.

Cork's Leeside Lion will look to one of the greats from the province when he captains the British and Irish Lions in the opening test in New Zealand, which starts at 8.30am Irish time.

Munster coach Foley, who died unexpectedly last October, had a simple mantra of playing what you know and to be yourself. 

And Cork hero O’Mahony intends to stick to that.

"Axel's a rugby man, so he would have told us all 'play your game, play what you do and what you know'," said O'Mahony of Foley.

"He'd have said there's a reason there's 45 players here now who have been selected.

"So just go out and play the game you know and do what you're here to do.

"There's no point in trying to be something you're not over here.

"You've been picked for a reason, so if you go out and play as well as you can, no one's going to fault you for that."

Having now been selected as the Test captain for the Lions, the Cork Con and Munster back-rower is a contender for the Irish captaincy as well now and Joe Schmidt yesterday said he was delighted for his blindside flanker ahead of the biggest day of the 27-year-old's career.

"I'm delighted for Pete,” said Schmidt. “I've known him for a number of years and he has started a heck of a lot of games for Ireland over the last number of years I've been involved," Schmidt said.

"He's a player who had to fight a long road back from injury, really a nine-month injury.

"The Lions have picked a really strong lineout and I think they are going to put a lot of pressure on the All Blacks lineout, and he's tough and he does all those other bits and pieces. I am delighted for him.

"I texted it when he got named captain for the New Zealand Maori game. He was over the moon and absolutely determined to put his best foot forward to play well and by doing that he would lead well. 

"I think he had things the right way around. Pete is smart as well as tough, and he's athletic, which makes him the lineout operator that he is."

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