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'Pete's in good form... he's a good emotional leader for us as well'

Andy Farrell believes O’Mahony is getting better, while the Cork man is loving life with Ireland.

O'Mahony at Ireland training this week.
O'Mahony at Ireland training this week.

IRELAND BOSS ANDY Farrell has praised Peter O’Mahony’s leadership, form, and the development of his attacking skills after retaining the Munster captain to start against England on Saturday.

32-year-old O’Mahony was on the Ireland bench for their first two games of the Six Nations but came into the starting XV for the clash with Italy two weekends ago when Jack Conan shifted to the bench.

Farrell has stuck with the same starting back row of O’Mahony at number six, Josh van der Flier in the seven shirt, and Caelan Doris at number eight for this weekend’s visit to Twickenham. Conan is on the Irish bench again.

“They’re both great players but we just think the balance is right for this game,” said Farrell this afternoon.

“Pete’s in good form, not just physically but he’s a good emotional leader for us as well. Leadership is a big part of every team performance.

“We obviously know what Pete brings in terms of the set-piece and the breakdown, but the rest of his game has come on an absolute treat. His attack stuff has really stepped up.

“I think he played really well against Italy, I also thought that Jack played really well coming off the bench and had a big impact, so the balance is right for this group.”

This weekend will be the ninth time O’Mahony has been in the starting team since Farrell took over as head coach.

peter-omahony O'Mahony has been in and out of the starting XV under Farrell. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Munster man has also made nine appearances off the Irish bench in that same period, underlining that he hasn’t always been a first-choice player.

Nonetheless, O’Mahony has been enjoying Farrell’s tenure. The flanker dubbed last year’s November Tests campaign as probably the most enjoyable month of his career.

And speaking today, the Cork man praised the environment that Farrell has created in Ireland camp.

“He has created a great learning environment,” said O’Mahony. “There’s isn’t a silly question to be asked. There’s very much an environment of asking a question, wanting clarity, an understanding.

“An environment that facilitates guys getting an understanding of the game from him or her or coaches or other players in your position or different positions. We all try to help each other out.

“He has developed an environment that’s a pleasant place to be all the time. When you cross the line at training there’s a huge intensity. When you are not on the pitch it’s very intense with regard to our learning and our video work, our little chats.

“He has kind of given the tools back to us to figure out our game and what our strengths are and our weaknesses and what we need to work on. He has facilitated a really pleasant environment to get better as a player, be it a guy coming is for the first time in the group or a guy 10 years on, there certainly isn’t a player that’s not learning every single day in Irish camp.”

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peter-omahony-with-his-son-theo-after-the-game O'Mahony with his son, Theo, after the Italy game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

O’Mahony feels that he has continued to improve as a player within Farrell’s set-up, but also because there is such intense competition for places in the back row.

“I have,” said O’Mahony when asked if he feels he has improved as a player under Farrell. “You have to all the time when you’re talking about international rugby and the quality of the group we have.

“You look at the back row competition that we have. If you’re stood still and you think that you’re going well, there are going to be players who will pass you out.

“You’ve got to keep moving and he has given us the platform, and Paul [O'Connell], Fogs [John Fogarty], Simon [Easterby], Catty [Mike Catt], they’ve given us the platform to reach our capacity.

“There’s no limit really, you know what I mean? It depends on you and how much you want to go after it, how much you want to get better. That goes for anyone, whether you’re new in or here for a long time, the only person stopping your capacity to get better is you.

“The competition there, look at guys like Nick Timoney, and the guys who are in regularly, obviously it’s a world-class six, seven, eight, nine, 10 back row players that you’re talking about, so it’s an environment where if you’re not getting better, you’re going to be passed out very, very quickly.

“At the same time it’s an environment where you are facilitated to get better all the time, so it’s very enjoyable.”

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