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'If he gets selected as Ireland captain, he’ll do a great job' - Van Graan backs O'Mahony

The 30-year-old Munster skipper is among the candidates to succeed Rory Best.

MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Graan has backed Peter O’Mahony to do “a great job” as Ireland captain if he is selected as the national team’s new leader by Andy Farrell.

Ireland boss Farrell has a big decision to make around the captaincy ahead of the 2020 Six Nations, with former skipper Rory Best having retired.

23-year-old James Ryan is many supporters’ favourite to be installed as the new Ireland captain, but O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton – who were vice-captains to Best – are among the more experienced options for Farrell.

peter-omahony O'Mahony is among the candidates to succeed Rory Best. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster out-half Sexton sustained a knee injury in his province’s win over Northampton last weekend and will be sidelined in the coming weeks as a result, but he is hopeful of being fit again in time for the start of the Six Nations.

Should Sexton prove his fitness before Ireland’s opener against Scotland on Saturday 1st February, he will be a very strong contender to captain Farrell’s team.

Ryan remains an intriguing possibility for Ireland. The Leinster lock has captained virtually every team he has played for apart from his province and Ireland at senior levels, but is rapidly growing as an influence at the very highest level and was integrated into the national team’s leadership group this year under Joe Schmidt.

Munster captain O’Mahony has already led his country on several occasions and van Graan think that would be in the Cork man’s favour if Farrell backs him as Ireland’s new leader. O’Mahony has also captained the Lions, although he was dropped after their first Test defeat to New Zealand in 2017.

“I’m sure Andy has got his plans and I’m very excited for him to take the national team forward,” said van Graan. “I certainly think Pete might be one of his candidates and if he selects Pete, Pete has been the captain before.

“He was captain when Ireland beat Australia in Australia and has been the Munster captain for a long time. I’m sure he will do very well, Pete has developed tremendously as a captain and as a player over the last two years and I think he is playing very good rugby.

“I think things that he has targeted like his ball-carrying ability has been really good the last two weeks and he has got influence. A lot of the time he’s a silent leader and his actions a lot of times speak louder than words.

“I’ll use the Exeter game of last year [as an example]. He went off with a rib injury against Gloucester and a week later he played 80 minutes against Exeter leading this team from the front.

peter-omahony-with-jerome-garces O'Mahony has captained Ireland on several occasions. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The one thing you can say about Peter O’Mahony is that he turns up every Saturday and he looks someone in the eye and when he speaks, the team listens. If he gets selected as Ireland captain, he’ll do a great job but luckily that’s Faz’s job and not mine.”

Farrell will gather his Ireland squad together for the first time for a 24-hour camp on 22/23 December.

While van Graan would naturally love to have all of his best players in Munster for the entire season, he hopes to see as many of his men as possible called into Ireland camp this month and then for the Six Nations next year.

“Test match rugby is the ultimate thing and certainly in my life the proudest thing to represent your country, whether it be as a player or a coach. It’s very important that players play for their national team,” said van Graan.

“From a Munster point of view, we would love to have our players available all the time but the national team always comes first in the grander scheme of things.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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