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O'Mahony 'a big moments player' for Ireland as Schmidt backs experience

The Ireland head coach said there were up to six tough selection calls in his team this week.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS underlined Peter O’Mahony’s importance to Ireland ahead of Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against the All Blacks [KO 11.15am Irish time].

There had been some calls for Schmidt to pick Tadhg Beirne or Rhys Ruddock at blindside flanker for this game, but the Ireland head coach has kept full faith in his vice-captain O’Mahony.

peter-omahony O'Mahony at Ireland training today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Munster man is often criticised for relatively low tackle and ball-carrying counts, but Schmidt said there is much more to O’Mahony that those statistics.

“He brings a leadership and experience, he’s a very effective lineout operator for us,” said Schmidt today after naming his matchday 23 at Ireland’s team hotel at Disneyland in Tokyo Bay. 

“Part of it is the structure, the way that he ends up across the width of the pitch. He tends to be playing in the wider channels and therefore he’s not as involved as some of the other players who are closer in.

“I think stats always tell part of the story but they don’t tell the complete picture.

“And for us, there are things he can add that we think will be really important. He saved our bacon the last time we played the All Blacks with an exceptional turn and chase and the long arms that he reached out just to pluck the ball in front of Ben Smith, who really would have scored for certain if Pete hadn’t got back and saved that.

“I think he won two balls on the ground in that game for us as well and that’s important.

“So he has been a bit of a big moments player for us, maybe not as many moments but the big moments, they count.”

Similarly, Schmidt has backed Rob Kearney’s big-game experience at fullback in his Ireland team for this weekend.

irelands-rob-kearney-during-the-training Schmidt has full faith in Rob Kearney.

The impressive form of Jordan Larmour had led to widespread calls for the 22-year-old to start at fullback against New Zealand and Schmidt admitted it had been a tough decision, amongst several others.

“Yeah, there’s probably four or five or maybe half a dozen reasonably tight selection decisions and you weigh up the experience, the previous performances against particular opposition and the combinations and you make a decision that you believe is the best informed that you can make,” said Schmidt.

“But you can’t guarantee that you’ve got any decision right until the game is completed.

“Obviously, with Bundee missing out, that clarified the midfield a little bit but Chris Farrell has been very good for us and his performance against Scotland, he really came on and made an influential impact. 

“On the wings, Andrew Conway has been very good as well, so the outside backs is a bit of a conundrum. In the loose forwards, Jordi Murphy’s versatility, the fact that he is two from two playing against the All Blacks…

“There’s all those temptations that you factor in. Jean Kleyn, the impact he has in the engine room.

“So we’ve tried to add up as best we can the combinations that we think will best serve us in this particular fixture.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo Bay

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