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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 15 September, 2019
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Barry's tea bags shipped to Japan but POM keen to sample local culture

The Ireland flanker is determined to enjoy the experience of being on tour with Ireland.

IRELAND’S PLAYERS WERE all able to fill out a questionnaire in the build-up to the World Cup, allowing them to make specific requests about any food and drink they’d like freighted over to Japan in preparation for the squad’s arrival.

Joe Schmidt’s men fly out of Dublin tomorrow, stopping in London en route to Tokyo, and when they land at their hotel in Chiba for their first few days on Japanese soil, they’ll be met with plenty of familiar tastes and smells in the team room.

“I think Barry’s have sent a couple of thousand tea bags over for all of us,” says Peter O’Mahony with a smile at the Irishness of it.

peter-omahony-chris-farrell-jacob-stockdale-and-joey-carbery Peter O'Mahony and Ireland team-mates at the launch of Vodafone's 'Ireland’s Ball'. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Any other strange requests from his team-mates?

“Tadhg Furlong bringing some sort of specific potato or something like that,” answers O’Mahony. “I don’t think that’s allowed though!”

The Munster man himself didn’t have any urgent requests on the culinary front but he is looking forward to taking in some of the delights Japan has to offer in that sense, keen as he is to enjoy the cultural side of this trip as well as taking care of business.

O’Mahony will travel to Japan with one thing at the forefront of his mind – winning with Ireland – but he will take time to appreciate how unique an experience he’s lucky to be having too. Last time he went to Japan, with the Ireland U20s in 2009, he admits to having let his surroundings “pass him by.”

A keen horticulturist, O’Mahony will likely do his best to visit some of the famous Japanese gardens, while he also says “their knives and tools are apparently very good, so we’ll have a look.”

Leaving his young family means tours with Ireland are more difficult than before, but a visit to Ireland camp by Paul O’Connell recently reminded O’Mahony that he needs to simply enjoy himself at times during this World Cup.

O’Connell himself was often relentlessly serious and work-focused in his own playing days, but he stressed to O’Mahony and co. that they will only benefit from chilling out in the brief windows they have the chance to.

“He was saying to enjoy it,” explains O’Mahony. “He said there were times he should have enjoyed it more than he did. He gave us lots of good advice – take your downtime when it comes.

peter-omahony-and-rory-best-ahead-of-the-game O'Mahony is a key leader alongside Rory Best. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I’m sure guys took lots of things from his wisdom. It was great to have him in, we’d a couple of other guys who gave advice on different aspects of tour experience, being away with big groups, so it was nice to have them in.

“It’s all-encompassing and you have to remember why you play the game. These are the seven or eight weeks, the reason you play the game, and you’ve got to enjoy it.

“Sometimes that can get lost with how serious it is, the pressure, but you always come back to why you’re doing it.”

With just 12 days until Ireland’s opener against Scotland in Yokohama, O’Mahony is already eager to get onto the pitch, however.

He sat out last weekend’s encouraging 19-10 victory over Wales in Dublin, having started the defeat to England and the away win over the Welsh on the two previous weekends.

Interestingly, the latter of those outings came in Ireland’s number seven shirt, which allowed O’Mahony to be involved in play more regularly than had been the case at blindside against England.

“I enjoyed it,” says O’Mahony of wearing the number seven shirt. “It wasn’t a huge difference for us with regard to me staying in the lineout and that kind of thing. I suppose just scrums is the main thing. There seemed to be a lot of scrums which fell for whatever reason.

“In attack, you’ve got first-phase breakdown. Defensively, scrum-wise, you’re in the first one or you’re in the second. It gets you into the phase play a bit quicker but there isn’t a huge difference from six.”

peter-omahony-runs-out O'Mahony captained Ireland at openside two weekends ago. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Whether he’s at blindside or openside, O’Mahony is shaping up to be a key man for Ireland once again at this World Cup. As one of their vice-captains, his leadership will likely be influential.

Schmidt’s squad have had some tough days in 2019 against England and Wales, but O’Mahony is glad to finally be close to kicking this World Cup off against the Scots – very much believing the best is ahead.

“I think we’re experienced now in that we’re always looking forward,” said O’Mahony.

“We certainly take our lessons from other experiences and games that we’ve gone past, but we know it’s a different day and those things, apart from the lessons you learn, they can affect what is ahead.

“Obviously Scotland is going to be a huge game for us, as they all will be, but it’s been building up for a long time.”

Vodafone has launched Ireland’s Ball, with a bespoke grip containing the fingerprints of 32 people from every county in Ireland. Ireland’s Ball will travel to Japan with the Ireland team as a symbol of the Team Of Us support for Irish Rugby for Irish Rugby from fans in Ireland and around the world.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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