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'We're in for one of the biggest weeks of our lives, it's good to be involved' -- Peter O'Mahony

The blindside will be the key component of Ireland’s breakdown strategy against France.

Sean Farrell reports from Celtic Manor

PETER O’MAHONY ISN’T usually the best barometer to gauge just how big a big game is.

The Munster captain tends to come across as intensely focused for every Pro12 fixture, never mind Rugby World Cup Pool Finales.

Peter O'Mahony Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Yet when he walked in to fulfill his media duties in Celtic Manor today, he appeared to have tautened the strings an extra few degrees.

For some personalities that would be a bad sign, but it seems to suit O’Mahony just fine. Maybe it even suits the general Irish psyche better. Men like Jamie Heaslip or Conor Murray can look like a different breed in days like this, when they stroll around apparently without a care in the world despite the culmination of a year’s work coming down to 80 minutes this Sunday.

“We’re feeling good. trained today and feeling refreshed afterwards,” O’Mahony says with lips that barely move.

“I think everyone knows we’re in for one of the biggest weeks of our lives. It’s a good week to be involved.”

Better to be in and wound up, than out and deflated..

“It shows the strength in depth we’ve built over the last two years. There’s guys that are going to hurt there. But you just give them a nudge on the bus, you acknowledge it, but everyone’s got the same mentality, you want to do whatever you can for your team.

Peter O'Mahony Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The line of questioning couldn’t ignore the nervous tension in O’Mahony’s body, but the blindside is well used to how these weeks unfold. He is able to keep the fine balance.

“Of course nerves are going to come. you just have to keep your head screwed, stay focused and let the nerves come beforehand.

It’s going to be a game that comes down to small moments, small margins. Set-piece is obviously going to be a huge part of that. We’ve worked hard there, but it’s an area that they’re going to come after us and we have to be strong there at the weekend.

“We’ve to worry about getting our work done during the week, getting our video and all that done early in the week and worrying about the game when it comes close to it.”

“I had a day off yesterday when I just try to chill out and not think about rugby for a few hours.

“Coming up to the game, you try to keep yourself cool and calm, there’s no point in playing the game three or four times in your head. There’s enough in 80 minutes.

Simone Favaro and Michele Campagnaro with Peter O'Mahony and Keith Earls Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“You’ve got to be simmering, but you can’t go over boiling point. You have to be as close as you can. Fully focused and mentally calm upstairs. It’s something you probably learn when you get a bit more experience. It comes a bit more natural now.”

Striking that perfect chord just shy of breaking point is the goal. And after the Corkman ended his day by embodying the frustrations of the whole country after 70 minutes against Italy, the focus for every action, every tackle but, most importantly, every ruck is renewed.

“We’ve got to go up a level or probably two or three to where we’ve been over the last few weeks.

The breakdown is now where rugby is won and lost. We’ve been a little bit off there and ti’s an area we need to improve if we’re going to win this game.”

“(Thierry Dusatoir) is one of the best opensides to ever play the game. You just have to be in there as fast as you can and you’ve got to be as accurate as you can.

“And it’s not just Dusatoir, (Eddy) Ben Arous, (Mathieu) Bastareaud are guys who are very strong over the ball. It’s not just their pack, so we have to arrive at the breakdown early.”

The fans will arrive early to do their part too. Old haunts will be visited, familiar settings will bring back memories of national and provincial successes. But the pictures on the wall and the medals in someone else’s cupboard don’t mean much to O’Mahony this week. This is his first World Cup and he has a little of his own history to make.

“There was loads of them (memorable Irish games in Cardiff), but they’re in the past now and we’ve got to worry about ourselves on Sunday.”

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Sean Farrell

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