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'Completely mental' O'Mahony and O'Brien should be a cause of concern for All Blacks

Lions back row James Haskell reckons the Irish pair offer something special to the team.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

AS THEY GEAR up for their first test against the All Blacks on Saturday, James Haskell believes the Lions’ back row options should be a cause of concern for the opposition, in particular the Irish duo of Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony.

The England and Wasps back-row will start for the midweek team against the Chiefs tomorrow and he recognises that the Lions’ depth at back row means he might not see much Test game time.

“Taulupe Faletau has been fantastic, Sean O’Brien has been excellent and Ross Moriarty showed in the first game why he’s on the tour. They are all fantastic and offer a big point of difference.

Although Haskell stressed he tends not to concern himself with his opposite number himself, he said if New Zealand were to worry about any of the Lions’ potential back rows that O’Brien and O’Mahony stand out.

“It’s probably Sean O’Brien or Peter O’Mahony that I’d be slightly concerned about. Not necessarily because of the physical thing – but because they are completely mental.”So I’d be worried if I took them on what might happen to me in the car park later on! I’ve been sharing a room with Sean all tour, and we’ve bonded, to say the least. But it’s those two I’d have to put my hand up and say I’d be concerned about.”

Peter O'Mahony receives a hongi after the game Peter O'Mahony captained the Lions in their win against the Maori All-Blacks last Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Whoever does get the nod to face the All Blacks on Saturday, Haskell has no doubt that they will leave everything on the pitch.

“Every time you put on that Lions shirt you have to leave it in a better place than you found it. You have to put everything out there. There is no point trying to save yourself. You have to run yourself into the ground every single game.”Sometimes when you are involved in teams they talk about the squad and it can be a bit of lip service, but on this tour it really is about that.”

Warren Gatland’s decision to call six new players up to the squad, based on their geographical location has earned him plenty of criticism back home, but it hasn’t affected the mood in the Lions’ camp.

 ”When the ball is rolling and you are in the mix, you don’t really worry too much about those kind of things. You have got team-mates coming on board, who are buying into what the Lions is about.

“ When they are asked to train, they train as hard as they can and when asked to make account of themselves and deliver a performance they do that. That’s what really matters.”

All six of Gatland’s new recruits will be on the bench for tomorrow’s clash, which kicks off at 8.35am.

Coming into a squad that has been together for weeks can be daunting, but Haskell says the new Lions have slotted in and become part of the team already.

“Communication is the most important thing of any sport and especially a team sport, just relaying those little messages, constantly going over things, being able to turn to a friend or a team-mate you don’t know and go ‘Listen mate, I need you to do this, are you happy with that, can we go for a coffee, can we talk about it.”That’s the way it goes and everyone has been adopted into the family pretty quickly. It’s having a coffee, it’s sitting at meal time.
“I sat down at the computer the other day and Cory [Hill] was asking me about lineouts. I don’t know why he thought I was the man to ask about lineouts, but I shared the knowledge I have. That is what a team is about.”

Tomorrow’s game will be the last chance for any test hopefuls to state their case ahead of Saturday’s match, and the Lions will be captained by Rory Best. The teams in full are:

Lions:

15. Liam Williams
14. Jack Nowell
13. Jared Payne
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Elliot Daly
10. Dan Biggar
9. Greig Laidlaw

1. Joe Marler
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Dan Cole
4. Iain Henderson
5. Courtney Lawes
6. James Haskell
7. Justin Tipuric
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Kristian Dacey
17. Allan Dell
18. Tomas Francis
19. Cory Hill
20. Alun Wyn Jones
21. Gareth Davies
22. Finn Russell
23. Tommy Seymour

Chiefs:

15. Shaun Stevenson
14. Toni Pulu
13. Tim Nanai-Williams
12. Johnny Faauli
11. Solomon Alaimalo
10. Stephen Donald
9. Finlay Christie

1. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi
2. Liam Polwart
3. Nepo Laulala
4. Dominic Bird
5. Michael Allardice
6. Mitchell Brown
7. Lachlan Boshier
8. Tom Sanders

Replacements:

16. Hika Elliot
17. Aidan Ross
18. Atu Moli
19. Liam Messam
20. Mitchell Karpik
21. Jonathan Taumateine
22. Luteru Laulala
23. Chase Tiatia

Referee: Jerome Garces [FFR].

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