Peter O'Mahony on what usually happens when Joe Schmidt announces the Ireland team to the squad
It was such a simple question but Peter O'Mahony gave one hell of an answer.
The Munster captain was asked how difficult it would be to gel as an Ireland squad with four uncapped players and several others who are not long on their Test journey. O'Mahony replies:
"You've got to understand, there's some young guys and new guys coming in but I think the carrot is there that you could get an international jersey in two weeks. You come into camp and in two weeks time there is an international match against South Africa and there is a jersey there up for grabs. Guys want to play. That's why guys want to play the game at the highest level.
"You come in and you compete because you want to go in the one direction, you want Ireland to win every time you go out and take the field. You want Ireland to win so you do your very best and do everything you can to make that happen, and make the team win. Hopefully, along the way, you get a jersey there and hopefully you perform in front of 55,000 people at the weekend.
"That's why we come into camp and we all get stuck into our detail and our gym work and our training. It's because we want to play on a Saturday."
Jesus Christ, what a man.
Having O'Mahony in your squad must be a daily reminder of the privileges players enjoy and the responsibilities they have to give it their very all. He is, by all accounts, a good skin too. That was evidenced in some of the extras of the Lions Uncovered film [out next week] with the Cork native right in the thick of some play-acting and team-bonding moments.
When game time approaches, though, he is a different beast...
Unreal... and certainly INTENSE https://t.co/Yshf3ml9gc
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) November 3, 2017
While O'Mahony addressed his Lions teammates with incredible passion, and clear instructions, ahead of the First Test against New Zealand, the film shows him in an altogether different light at the team announcement.
From a felt noteook, Warren Gatland reads out the names of the 23 men who will be fortunate enough to face the All Blacks at Eden Park, with O'Mahony named blindside and captain. The mood is incredibly sombre, with none of the players speaking and most shuffling out with their heads down when Gatland releases them.
O'Mahony bores a hole in the ground with a fixed stare for most of it and only the nearby George Kruis and Mako Vunipola utter any sort of congratulations.
He explains that the scene that played out is not too dissimilar to the one that usually occurs in Ireland camp when Joe Schmidt reveals his team to the wider squad. O'Mahony says:
"That's it, you certainly can't be celebrating. There's guys in the room who have done a huge amount of work and as much work as the guys who have been lucky enough to get into the 23.
"There's a respect there and a few minutes there when it might be a bit of a surprise for guys. It's a lot to take in but you've got to go then and train and train well because there's only two or three sessions before you go and take the field.
"It's a small window where you take a little bit in but you move on. There's a job to be done."
That window proved small enough for O'Mahony as he did not feature in the remainder of the Test Series but he says he took confidence from being a big part of 'an incredible experience' in New Zealand.
He is now a Lions captain but he is also aware that he was not even an Ireland starter until Jamie Heaslip's back seized up minutes before the Six Nations win over England, in March. Cementing his place in the team is the goal but, then, it has always been the goal.
"That's the focus every time anyone comes into any camp, there's no one who has ever walked into an Ireland jersey before. There has probably been guys who have walked out of it by the way you perform in training, do you know what I mean?
"It's very focused, you've got to be on the ball and the day someone wanders in thinking they're going to start or is laissez faire about how they carry on around here they'll be shown the door."
We have no doubt that Joe Schmidt would be the one showing them the door but, such is O'Mahony's commitment to the cause, he may be the one holding it open before slamming it shut.