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O'Mahony: 'We're going to have to play the best game we've played all year'

The Munster captain is working hard to prove his fitness ahead of the challenge against a ‘a huge, huge’ Toulouse back row.

O'Mahony's last appearance in Munster colours was on the 19th of January against Edinburgh.
O'Mahony's last appearance in Munster colours was on the 19th of January against Edinburgh.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THERE IS AN UNDERSTANDABLE frustration for Munster captain Peter O’Mahony this week as preparation for the biggest game of his provincial season is stunted by an ongoing hamstring issue.

Head coach Rob Penney remains hopeful that the blindside flanker will have recovered fully by Saturday, and it seems highly unlikely that Munster will head into battle against Toulouse without the 24-year-old.

As O’Mahony explains, he was very close to playing against Leinster last weekend, although he concedes that his late withdrawal was the right call.

“I just tightened up on the Friday and thought it was going to ease up [by Saturday]. They gave me until as late as they could, I just couldn’t get it loose. It feels much better now. It kind of felt not too bad after the game, which was annoying, but that’s the way these things work sometimes.

To be fair to our medical staff and physios at the weekend, they made the right call on not chancing me.”

Penney’s update this afternoon revealed that O’Mahony is on “a managed workload” in the early part of this week, with the Ireland flanker explaining that such a term simply means he sat out the final portion of training in the University of Limerick today.

“It was full training bar the last few minutes; I did a full session today,” said O’Mahony. His self-diagnosis is a positive one and the Cork man expects to lead his side out on Saturday afternoon.

Peter O'Mahony O'Mahony feels Munster will need their strongest performance of the season to beat Toulouse. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

O’Mahony admits that he would have ideally had a game under his belt heading into the Toulouse fixture, rather than an enforced three-week rest period following Ireland’s victory in Paris.

Taking a philosophical viewpoint on his misfortune, the back row says, “These are the way my cards have been dealt to me and I just have to make the best of this week to put my best foot forward for the weekend.”

If O’Mahony does make his return on Saturday, it will be his first time lining out against Toulouse, a team he was naturally impressed by in the Heineken Cup as a young Munster fan.

Watching his home province beat the Top 14 side in the 2008 final is fond memory, and while Toulouse have certainly regressed in recent years, O’Mahony expects a similarly fierce contest in Thomond Park this weekend.

They have a huge, huge back row and they’re very dynamic as well for such big men. We’re preparing for their best team to come over. Regardless of who that is, it’s going to be a quality side.

“I think we’re going to have to play the best game we’ve played all year in a Munster jersey to put ourselves in a position to win the game.”

O’Mahony was missed in the Munster line-out last weekend, as Penney’s re-shuffled forwards failed to consistently compete as aggressively on Leinster’s throw as they would have liked to do.

20-year-old Toulouse hooker Christopher Tolofua has had several poor throwing performances in the Top 14 this season, although his contributions around the pitch are notably explosive.

Peter O'Mahony with fan Luke Grimes O'Mahony is excited about returning to Thomond Park. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Having O’Mahony back to compete would boost Munster’s chances of excelling in the line-out, although the flanker insists the province are preparing to take on that Toulouse set-piece as they would any other.

“Paulie [O'Connell] does a huge amount of assessment on the line-outs, as do the other people in our line-out. We always analyse teams to the best of our ability and we’ll be doing our best to attack it.

I’m sure he [Tolofua] has better than the last couple of months, but he’s had a couple of great games as well. He’s well able to throw a ball, so we’ll have to be spot on to disrupt it.”

The unforgettable images of O’Mahony in action in recent times are almost exclusively based around the breakdown, as Ireland coach Joe Schmidt tasked him with winning turnovers on the deck during the Six Nations.

The Munster captain agrees that his back row duties will be altered if he plays this weekend, before going on to point out how detailed work with Anthony Foley has helped him to improve at the breakdown.

“We’ve a different game plan to Ireland, so I’ve a different role at times. Axel has a couple of great breakdown drills that he’s done a lot of work on with us over the last 18 months. I think at times, as well, some of these things fall to you and you’re in the right position at the right time.

“Obviously I have done a lot of work on it, but I would have always considered myself handy at the breakdown. It’s something that gives you a bit of confidence alright.”

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