Munster's Peter O'Mahony
MUNSTER captain Peter O’Mahony has emerged as a leading contender to skipper the Lions in Saturday’s First Test against the All-Blacks at Eden Park, Auckland, 8.35am Irish time.
Twenty seven-year-old O’Mahony went a long way towards sealing his place in the starting back row to face New Zealand after captaining the Lions to an impressive win over the Maori All-Blacks in Rotorua last weekend.
O’Mahony’s leadership skills came in for praise for Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell in the wake of that success.
Lions tour captain Sam Warburton is struggling to displace Sean O’Brien from the starting line-up increasing the chances of O’Mahony captaining the test team in Auckland this weekend.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland has also been impressed by O’Mahony’s ‘Munster mongrel’ spirit on the tour.
Gatland said: “It's not something that you can quantify what Munster brings to a game.
“It's a special pride, sometimes, the performances they can produce, it's done consistently over the years. Being able to dig deep and bring performances from places where individuals and collectively people often can't do.
“That's what Peter will bring to the team.”
O'Mahony, who captained Ireland on their 2013 tour to North America, became the fourth player to lead the Lions on this 2017 tour, following Welsh forwards trio Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and tour captain Warburton.
The Lions, under their fifth captain this tour, Rory Best, scored an impressive victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton yesterday, Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Munster scrum-half Conor Murray, looks certain to start Saturday’s opening Test in Auckland.
In 2013, Patrickswell man Murray travelled as an outside bet for the Test side, but he impressed sufficiently to feature off the bench in the final two Tests with Australia.
Speaking in the wake of the weekend win over the Maoris, Murray said: “It’s definitely got the potential to be better than 2013. We’re still figuring a few things out and we’ve got a massive test in the next few weeks so we’ll find out at the end of that.
“There’s excitement there that the potential is growing and we want to see how good we are.”
Murray was very impressed with how New Zealand performed in their warm-up game with Samoa last weekend.
“They obviously performed really well and sent out a big message,” Murray said.
“We analysed them really well, we have a really good video team and the coaches will give us good information and we’ll keep building our own game.
“We’ll obviously focus on the threats they’ll bring but we’ll keep building our squad and our game plan, and look to iron out a few creases.
”The buzz is good.”