herald

Friday 24 March 2017

Jones' men up there with all blacks

O'Mahony rates England highly as Ireland regroup

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony says it’s very hard to pick out any weaknesses in the England team. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony says it’s very hard to pick out any weaknesses in the England team. Photo: Sportsfile

England coach Eddie Jones doesn't do false modesty. He has made no bones about England's stated goal to become the best in the world.

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony holds the opinion they may already be there.

"They have to be up there. They are going for 19 games in-a-row," said the Munster man.

There have been further signs of evolution in how they got out of jail against France at Twickenham and against Wales in Cardiff to land the Six Nations championship with a round to spare.

The best Ireland could manage in 2014 and 2015 was the sliver of 'points-difference.'

"They've gone to Australia, won three out of three.

"There have been in against sides that have been able to put pressure on them. But, they've come out on the other side of games they've been really tested in.

"It is very hard to argue with the fact they are up there competing with New Zealand for the top slot of the best team in the world."

The strain of Ireland's inconsistency, in terms of winning, from the four rounds of the Six Nations was etched on O'Mahony's face.

Fine margins

In the world of fine margins, Ireland have not been thoroughly outplayed by anyone, not Scotland, not Wales.

There were times in both games when they either came from behind to lead, like in Murrayfield, or came up one bad decision, like Robbie Henshaw's loss of composure, short of a try that could have made all the difference in Cardiff.

Ireland are so close to clicking O'Mahony can almost reach out and touch it.

This is where the frustration sets in.

The environment is the same as November. The standards are the same.

"It's not a completely different group or we haven't changed the game plan in any way," he said.

"We certainly took confidence out of it (November) into the Six Nations. But, that's a long way past now.

"We know how good we can be and how good we are. It is just we need to figure out a way to just finish that last percent to get back there."

In one sense, O'Mahony knows Ireland are still back there in November.

They will have to take away England's bid for a world-record of consecutive wins for a Tier-1 nation.

What went for New Zealand goes for England. Their strengths are many, if different. Their weaknesses are rare.

"I think it is very hard to pick out a weakness in their team," he gauged.

"Obviously, we will do our homework on what we can do and we might be able to manipulate a couple of things.

"But, they are certainly a difficult side to find weak links in.

"I mean any team who can go that long without being beaten, go that long putting in big performances every time you put on a jersey, they are a tough team to analyse.

"To get a way in is going to be a tough challenge for us."

The flanker certainly abides by the team ethic. There have been calls for his promotion to counter England's lineout. He knows better than to fall for that one.

"If they pick me, they pick me for a reason," he said.

"If they don't, if they want me to come off the bench and make an impact, I've tried to not to change my emotions in any way over the last few weeks.

"You're there to prepare, whether it's for the starting 15 or the 23 as best you can."

He was unwilling to divulge whether the barrier to victory is more mental than physical at this point.

"It is hard to say," he exhaled.

"Look, we are training really well, we do a lot of work on that side of it as well.

"I think in the white heat of battle it is a tough thing to get everything right.

"In international rugby these days, if you get one or two things wrong you are probably talking 7-14 points you have either missed or conceded.

"It is the smallest of lines and the smallest of margins."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News