Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# Hitman
Ireland hardman Peter O’Mahony ready to take on ‘formidable’ Italy pack
Parisse, Furno and Ghiraldini are key players, says Munster flanker

Rory Keane reports from Guildford

THE ENFORCER. It’s a term that doesn’t sit well with Peter O’Mahony.

Ireland’s blindside is as confrontational as they come on the pitch, but, off it, O’Mahony tries to avoid the limelight. He does his talking on the field.

Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Therefore, when it’s put to the Corkman that many international sides now see him as the Irish hitman, very much in the mould of a Bakkies Botha or a Brad Thorn, O’Mahony looks uncomfortable. He doesn’t need praise or validation; he just gets on with it.

“It is obviously a compliment and I’ll certainly take it,” said O’Mahony.  “I just try to go about things the same as I can every weekend and try to lift my physicality depending on who I am playing against. I just try and be as physical as I can and be at the coal-face as often as I can.”

If Sunday’s game at the Olympic Stadium is anything like Ireland’s World Cup clash with Italy back in 2011, O’Mahony and his team-mates are in for a hugely physical encounter.

Four years ago, Ireland stormed to a 36-6 victory in Dunedin with Keith Earls bagging a brace on his 24th birthday. It was a wonderful occasion with Declan Kidney’s side securing top spot in Pool C, but the contest was marred by a number of unsavoury off-the-ball incidents including Leonardo Ghiraldini’s eye gouge on Cian Healy.

“I think you are getting to a stage now where every game is going to be physical the way rugby has gone,” said the Munster captain. “The way players are built, physicality is a huge part of every game, it is a huge part of psychology, it is a certainly a huge part of the pack mentality that we live in, that we have grown up in… it is important for every international we play in.”

O’Mahony sat out the comprehensive victory against the Romanians and has been feeling the benefits off a week off: “It was great having the rest and some of us have had some gym sessions and had the weekend off and it’s been great. Guys are going really well with their weights and stuff and they’ve benefited from having the few days off. So it was really good.”

Saying that, he did feel envious watching his team-mates run out at Wembley in front of 90,000 fans amid a sea of green.

“Yeah, that’s the thing,” O’Mahony explained. “You want to be involved in every game, but obviously you’ve got to listen to the staff, the S & C guys and there’s talk behind what they’re doing. But obviously, missing out on the weekend, with 90,000 fans out there, it’s something that you’d love to be involved in, but, as I said, you’ve got to take the advice and row in behind what the guys are doing.”

Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

O’Mahony’s work over the ball at ruck time has been his trademark over the past few seasons but there have been signs of his game developing during this World Cup.

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Against Canada, the 26-year-old flanker passed more than he carried as Ireland ran their opponents off their feet in Cardiff.

“Yeah it is, it’s something that I would pride myself on but I probably haven’t been doing enough of,” said O’Mahony on his link play.

“I’ve just been doing a bit of work on it in the last couple of weeks and probably just becoming a bit more comfortable with it at the international level. It’s something that I hope I can build on.”

Italy have not been their best in recent times and currently occupy 14th place in the world rankings. O’Mahony, however, is expecting a monstrous challenge this weekend: “They‘re a very tough side to play against, obviously they have an extremely formidable pack.

“(Sergio) Parisse coming back in this week is obviously a big lift for them. Guys like (Josh) Furno and Ghiraldini, there’s world class players in their pack and in their backline as well. Every time we come against them, it’s hugely physical so it’s going to be an extremely tough game.”

Against a gnarly Azzurri pack, Ireland will need O’Mahony at his feral best.

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