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'Pete is smart as well as tough' - Joe Schmidt confident O'Mahony will be natural Lions skipper

The Corkman was named skipper by Warren Gatland this week.

Joe Schmidt at yesterday's press conference in Tokyo.
Joe Schmidt at yesterday's press conference in Tokyo.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

John Fallon reports from Tokyo

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt has no doubt Peter O’Mahony will be a superb Lions captain.

Schmidt will wrap up Ireland’s season with the second and final clash in Japan and will then head to New Zealand to catch the remaining two Lions’ tests.

He said he was thrilled for O’Mahony and the other Irish players chosen and was confident that Jonathan Sexton would put his non-selection behind him and deliver off the bench and around the team.

“I’m delighted for Pete. I’ve known him for a number of years and have started a heck of a lot of games for Ireland over the last number of years I’ve been involved.

“He’s a player who had to fight a long road back from injury, really a nine-month injury.

“I think, at the time, I remember expressing the complication of not having him at lineout time. The Lions have picked a really strong lineout and I think they are going to put a lot of pressure on the All Blacks lineout, and he’s tough and he does all those other bits and pieces. I am delighted for him.”

Schmidt got in touch with the Munster man when he was named skipper for the Maori game and he believes he has all the credentials.

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“I texted it when he got named captain for New Zealand Maori game. He was over the moon and absolutely determined to put his best foot forward to play well and by doing that he would lead well.

“I think he had things the right way around. Pete is smart as well as tough, and he’s athletic, which makes him the lineout operator that he is.”

Schmidt said the likes of Tadhg Furlong was ‘just a kid’ at the 2015 World Cup but had progressed, and he has no doubt Sexton will overcome his disappointment and deliver.

“Johnny is the supreme team contributor. He will back the team, he will back Owen, I know they are quiet friendly unless they are in white and green. He will back him absolutely.

“It leaves a bit of scope for Owen to push out to 12 with Johnny at 10 later in the game,” added Schmidt.

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John Fallon

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