"Jesus, we could be here a while!" - Peter O'Mahony on what Johnny Sexton means to Ireland
In fairness to the reporter that followed up with a question about Mack Hansen, to Mack Hansen, in Ireland's Thursday press briefing, he was trying to raise the matter to ask the winger if he felt he had been type-cast as a larrikin within the Irish squad.
"Did Andy not just answer a question about this a second ago?" asked an incredulous O'Mahony. Andy Farrell had invited the journalists to clear up rumours - nothing more substantial - about beers in Biarritz before he left the stage to Hansen and O'Mahony. As an IRFU press officer tried to move proceedings along, the Munster back-row let out an exasperated curse.
Peter O'Mahony on Johnny Sexton
Once we had moved on from the Mack Hansen mini-saga - for the record, Andy Farrell insisted he was simply rested for the opener, although he did end up as bench cover - Peter O'Mahony had time to praise his teammate.
"Tours like this are made for being incredibly serious," he said, "and obviously our jobs and everything that goes with it, but the craic that fellas like this bring make it a great place to be."
O'Mahony was asked, earlier in the briefing, to speak on his old mucker Johnny Sexton, as he nears Ireland's all-time points record. That record belongs to Ronan O'Gara, for now, but O'Mahony would be content if Sexton were to surpass it in a winning effort against Tonga.
Asked to sum up what Sexton meant to this Irish squad, the Cork native remarked, "Jesus, we could be here a while!
"He's had an incredibly long career. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he broke the record [against Romania] to be the oldest Irish player to put on a pair of boots for an international match, which we got a good chuckle about.
"Look, he's breaking all the records. He's the standard-bearer for Irish rugby and has been for well over a decade now... He's an exceptional player, and person. It was probably always coming, that record... I'm sure he has bigger goals on the horizon than that one."
As for the challenge Tonga will pose, O'Mahony commented, "The main thing is to improve. There was plenty of stuff that we were happy with last week but there was probably more that we weren’t happy with - discipline, penalties given away when we had Romania under pressure and we let them out easily with quite silly discipline.
"Our accuracy wasn’t what it could have been at times; some fairly basic errors that we would expect much higher standards from; set-piece-wise, some of the moments when we got into their 22 our lineout didn’t function so we have plenty of areas to improve on this week."
HOUSE OF RUGBY WITH PETER STRINGER & JOHNE MURPHY:
- Andy Farrell makes big calls, and plenty of changes, for Tonga clash
- Bundee Aki shows another side of himself before reminding us all of his best qualities
- Roy Keane cracks jokes with Johnny Sexton and Andy Farrell at Ireland training camp
- Paul O'Connell on his most treasured jersey swap and toughest opponent
- Tommy Bowe backs Jack Crowley as World Cup 'deputy' to Johnny Sexton