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'You have to have your internationals performing and we mightn't have'

Peter O’Mahony is expecting much better from his Munster team tomorrow after some substandard performances recently.

PETER O’MAHONY IS 30 now. 

He’s in his 11th season playing for Munster at senior level, his eighth as his native province’s captain.

And the blindside flanker has yet to feel the joy of lifting a trophy in the red jersey.

He played six times in the first half of the 2010/11 campaign that ended with Magners League success but wasn’t a core part of the squad that drove on to what remains Munster’s most recent success.

peter-omahony O'Mahony and Munster are on the brink of another European exit. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Munster have been close a few times. A long-term ACL injury meant O’Mahony missed their 2015 Pro14 decider against Glasgow but he played in their most recent final defeat – the 2017 clash with Scarlets – while he has had to deal with the frustration of semi-final defeats in the Champions Cup for the past three seasons.

He vividly recalls delighting in Munster’s 2006 and 2008 European successes from the stands, but O’Mahony admits to concerns that achieving the same as a player could pass him by.

“Yeah, of course,” nods O’Mahony.

“Yeah, it’s one of my biggest worries.”

Munster’s latest make-or-break Champions Cup game comes tomorrow in Paris, where Johann van Graan’s men will attempt to beat Racing 92 at their indoor Paris La Défense Arena [KO 3.15pm Irish time, BT Sport], where the Top 14 side can tear defences apart on the 4G pitch.

Lose and Munster’s hopes of a European quarter-final appear to be at an end. It’s not ideal, then, that the province’s form isn’t very impressive in recent times as they come into this game off defeats to Leinster and Ulster.

The performance in Belfast last weekend was a concerning one, with O’Mahony admitting he was among those to let themselves down.

“I wasn’t happy with my performance last weekend but hopefully I’ll be able to get a shot and be able to put that right at the weekend.”

With his side having won two of their last seven games in all competitions, Munster boss Johann van Graan has bemoaned their inability to build cohesion, with the province’s Ireland internationals missing for two weekends over the festive period due to the IRFU’s player management protocols.

But O’Mahony doesn’t believe it is acceptable for himself and other senior players in Munster to drop their performance levels after returning from that break.

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peter-omahony-dejected-after-the-game O'Mahony and Munster didn't hit their standards last weekend. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I wouldn’t like to use that as an excuse,” says the Cork man. “With regard to internationals coming back, we should be performing and playing well. We should know the calls. It’s never an excuse for an international to come back and not know the calls, even with a new group.

“That’s the kind of pressure we put ourselves under and the expectation is there of you and that’s something that is important to us. You have to have your internationals performing and we mightn’t have over the last couple of weeks, so we better get that sorted as well.”

He reflects on the performance against Ulster last weekend as not being up to the standard Munster have set for themselves.

“I think Ulster played very well, I don’t want to take away from that, but I just don’t think that what we expect across the board was there at the weekend – carry, breakdown, maul, the important things of rugby in general, not just for us,” explains O’Mahony.

“We didn’t win collisions. We didn’t stop gainline, tackle-wise. I don’t think we controlled the game well enough at times. We tried to play ball when we probably shouldn’t have and then we conceded 16 turnovers in the middle of the park, which is 16 ‘ins’ for an opposition.

“You’re always going to have mistakes but 16 is too many. It was just an under-standard performance from our point of view across the board.”

Regarding the collisions – which will be vital tomorrow in Paris – Munster will be boosted by CJ Stander, Chris Farrell, Jean Kleyn, and Dave Kilcoyne returning to their starting team, but again the captain doesn’t see the poor effort last time out as excusable.

“We have stuff that technically we probably didn’t do well enough and at times you need to be just ready for a collision and at times we weren’t, so it’s probably a combination of both,” he explains when asked if it was a technical or emotional issue.

O’Mahony says Munster’s reviews in recent weeks have been as direct as ever – “honesty is a huge policy of ours” – and he retains belief that this team can produce something special on the road in Paris.

peter-omahony-looks-on Racing have caused Munster pain in the Champions Cup before. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Munster were highly competitive in their home draw with Racing at Thomond Park, as well as in the win in Limerick against Saracens and the defeat away to the English side, but O’Mahony wants to see more.

“Look, competitive isn’t good enough for us, we have got to perform better at times.

“I get my confidence from the group, from the people around me and knowing what we’re capable of when we play well, when we perform well and our heads are in the right place.

“That’s always where I get my confidence from – from the guys around me when I take to the pitch, from the training we do during the week and our preparation, and from knowing the guys, what they can do on a rugby pitch and their individual qualities, from knowing who they are and what they’re capable of.”

- This article was updated at 10.36am to correct the error stating that Munster’s most recent final was the 2015 Pro14 decider, rather than the 2017 Pro14 final.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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