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Peter O'Mahony the Lions' Test captain? It could happen this weekend

The Munster flanker is in with a good chance of leading the Lions in Auckland.

Murray Kinsella reports from Hamilton

PETER O’MAHONY THE Lions’ Test captain? It would have been virtually unthinkable several months ago, when the Munster man wasn’t even in Ireland’s team, but now the prospect is very real.

Peter O'Mahony celebrates winning with his dad O'Mahony with his father after the win in Rotorua. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones remain in the selection mix for the first Test, but having led the tourists so impressively last weekend against the Māori All Blacks, with his management of referee Jaco Peyper being particularly impressive, O’Mahony has a genuine shot.

The South African match official will take charge of the first Test next weekend in Auckland too, when O’Mahony’s good relationship with him could be useful.

Aside from that referee duty, O’Mahony has been impressing his team-mates as a leader in this Lions squad and it’s clear that he has earned the respect of those around him.

“Pete did a fantastic job I thought,” said hooker Jamie George of O’Mahony’s captaincy in Rotorua last weekend.

“He doesn’t over-talk, he doesn’t feel he has to talk every time. But when he does talk, he talks brilliantly and everybody listens and he’s a fantastic role model and someone very easy to follow.”

Meanwhile, fellow back row James Haskell said that O’Mahony “led by example the other night” and that same respect for the Cork native is present throughout the Lions group.

O’Mahony has vast experience of captaining teams, including Munster and Ireland, and he tends to take these kinds of honours in his stride. The challenge of leading the Lions against the All Blacks would be unlikely to faze him.

British and Irish Lions captain for the match against the Maori Peter O'Mahony during the Training O'Mahony has put his hand up as a leader. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Of course, there is still a chance that Warren Gatland could decide to break up his balanced and effective back row of O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau in favour of bringing in tour captain Sam Warburton.

O’Mahony could miss out in that case, but the Welsh openside has struggled to find his best form and is short of match sharpness, meaning the proven back row trio should hold their places.

Starting at blindside flanker may come with the captaincy for O’Mahony and if that proves to be the case, the Lions are entirely comfortable with the Irishman leading the way.

“I’d be more than comfortable,” said assistant coach Andy Farrell. “I’d be more than comfortable with a number of players being able to do that. To be honest, it’d be the easiest team to captain because there’s so many leaders out there.

“What the guys who have captained the side so far have realised is they don’t have to be vocal all the time, because there’s always people that’s helping them out and I think the balance has been great so far.”

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Murray Kinsella

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