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Games like this French one were top reason O'Mahony stayed in Ireland

The Munster captain is feeling fit and excited for the upcoming Six Nations campaign.

PETER O’MAHONY WOULD have weighed everything up in detail – his family, his fitness, his province, his earning power and much more.

But when it came down to it, playing Test rugby for Ireland shone through as the strongest reason for extending his contract with the IRFU for another three years.

Peter O'Mahony O'Mahony is set to start at blindside flanker against France. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

As the Munster captain prepares to head to Stade de France with Joe Schmidt’s side this weekend, he says games like this one in the green jersey were foremost in his thoughts when he penned a new deal with the union.

“They’ve got to be the top one or two – the top one, probably, of your selection process,” he said. “These are the days you want to play rugby, from someone who’s growing up in Ireland.”

Being part of Schmidt’s current squad is a thrill for O’Mahony and, although he appreciates the quality of the competition for back row places, with his fitness in good order he was excited to get back into camp for this Six Nations campaign.

“You see how the provinces are going,” says the 28-year-old. “I must say I was looking forward to getting in and getting training alongside some of the guys that have been playing really well.

“My body feels good. There’s still an incredible competition here for back row places, younger guys playing well. There’s a lot of guys playing well across the back row, six or seven of us up here. You’re always learning, you can never be complacent.

“That’s always been the way with Irish back rowers, from a long time before I started until today – there’s always a massive competition.”

Among O’Mahony’s chief concerns this weekend in Paris will be a French lineout that is now operating under the coaching of ex-international back row Julien Bonnaire, who only recently retired from playing.

Though Bonnaire is inexperienced, O’Mahony expects him to have made an impact in a very short space of time.

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Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony O'Mahony will be key to Ireland at lineout time. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Bonnaire was an expert lineout operator and he’s done a good job with Lyon, coming from there into the French set-up now,” says O’Mahony.

“He’s got a huge amount of experience and a huge amount of knowledge in that area, and the French lineout is always very well run. You’d expect nothing less.”

Speaking last week, Ireland boss Schmidt picked French back row Sekou Macalou out as the possible star of the Six Nations, and O’Mahony will be keeping a close eye on the Stade Français man.

“He is a very good lineout operator, he drives their linespeed, he gets in your face, he’s a good player,” says O’Mahony. “He’s a typically abrasive back rower along with the rest of the back rowers they’ve picked in their squad.

“A typically French, in-your-face, very physical, very up-front back row, so it’s going to be a big one.”

While there are many unknowns for Ireland with France having a new head coach in Jacques Brunel and what will be a fresh-looking starting XV, O’Mahony doesn’t expect anything less than the usual ferocity in Paris.

“You go back to what you always look at,” says the Ireland back row. “Obviously, the quality of player they have is top class. Then the coaches’ credentials are extremely good.

“There is a little bit of unknown because they haven’t been together for a long time but we know how difficult it is to go and play in France, how passionate they are about playing at home, how passionate they are about playing in the Six Nations and obviously the quality of player that they have, so we have to get things right.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Murray Kinsella

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