Peter O'Mahony delivered some fitting Jack Crowley comments after surprise Test start
The Munster outhalf ended up wearing Johnny Sexton's actual No.10 jersey.
There was concern at Aviva Stadium, about 25 minutes before kick-off in the Bank of Ireland Nations Series clash between Ireland and Australia. Johnny Sexton, the Ireland captain, was nowhere to be seen, and Paul O'Connell was grabbing Jack Crowley and Ross Byrne for a word.
Sexton had been out on the pitch, earlier on the night, and had done the coin toss with Wallabies captain James Slipper. Perhaps, some wondered, the Ireland captain was just taking it as easy as possible before his final Test match of the year.
Not so. At just after 7:40pm, some 20 minutes before kick-off, the IRFU confirmed Sexton would not be taking part in the game. His calf had flared up and he would have to watch from the sidelines.
Jack Crowley was in at 10 for his first Test start and Ross Byrne was on the replacements bench. Given that Joey Carbery and Ciarán Frawley were both injured, this was Ireland calling on their fourth and fifth choice men to navigate a Test match against a wounded but determined Australian side.
Jack Crowley is wearing Johnny Sexton's actual No.10 jersey tonight
That's how late and unexpected the change was pic.twitter.com/aHcD3LMq5z
— Pat McCarry (@patmccarry) November 19, 2022
Peter O'Mahony on Jack Crowley
As it all played out, Ireland were rattled by the late withdrawal of their captain, but Jack Crowley acquitted himself well and Ross Byrne came off the bench to kick the winning penalty.
Yes, Johnny Sexton is still a player that Ireland often struggle without but this result, and these two lads stepping up, will mean a lot to Andy Farrell and the wider group.
Following the game, Peter O'Mahony, who stepped in as captain, spoke extremely well of a player, in Crowley, that he has witnessed coming through the Munster, and now Ireland, ranks. He said:
"We were all conscious that we wanted to make him feel a million dollars. Sometimes that's just a little squeeze of the arm, or pat on the back. And he knows, then, that you're there.
"The most important thing is your actions as a group - from a forward pack or leadership group. They weren't always up to scratch, but we always had his best interests at heart.
"It's a big ask for a young man to come in and play 70 minutes against a team as good as that, and to come out on top. Look, it's easy to see - he's a good kid. He's hungry to learn, he's hugely ambitious, he's no fear of asking questions or saying the wrong thing. And it's refreshing to see, someone at that age getting stuck in, enjoying it and putting a performance like that in. It's great for him."
O'Mahony and Crowley will now return back to Munster and the challenges are coming thick and fast - Connacht at home before Edinburgh away and European Cup tilts against Toulouse and Northampton.
Munster will get back several players that are dinged up, but ones that are full of confidence after a positive few weeks.
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