Peter O'Mahony is relishing the prospect of Munster's first interprovincial derby this weekend as his team prepares to enter the Aviva Stadium and a Saturday afternoon Guinness PRO14 showdown with Leinster, writes Simon Lewis
With Champions Cup pool games against French opposition looming in the following fortnight, in Castres and then at home to Racing 92, the Munster skipper sees the inevitable ratcheting up in physicality and intensity that comes when local rivals clash as an ideal springboard to European rugby.
“It's a step up, every provincial game is a step up in intensity,” O'Mahony said. “There is certainly a difference between Europe and the PRO14.
“To bridge that, this is the perfect preparation, the intensity Munster v Leinster has, the quality there, the rivalries, playing against friends, it's a great one to ramp into Europe.”
O'Mahony successfully came through 73 minutes in his seasonal debut against Cardiff Blues last Saturday, leading his side to a much-needed home victory after the disappointment of a hammering the previous weekend in Glasgow.
It was the 28-year-old's first game since leading the British & Irish Lions last June in the opening Test against New Zealand, after which he was unceremoniously dropped, not to see any more action on tour.
O'Mahony has no regrets about the way he conducted himself after being dropped from the Test squad and said: “I'm very proud. Hugely proud of captaining the team, and I think I carried myself as best I could afterwards.
“You're invested at that stage, you've opened yourself up to a group of guys you don't really know, all you want to do together is just win.
“I trained as well as I could the last two weeks, you're just trying to get the lads to win, that's all you wanted to happen. I had a hugely enjoyable experience, very proud of what happened. Obviously I'm disappointed we didn't win, but that's part and parcel.”
O'Mahony was not prepared to comment on Sean O'Brien's criticisms of the Lions coaches' preparations for the first and final Tests but he was naturally disappointed not to be involved after the opening defeat.
“Yeah, personally (disappointed), but you can only be that way for a few minutes, there's too much else going on. You can't be around a tour like that and feel sorry for yourself, there's too much going on. To do that it's unbelievably selfish and that's not what rugby is about, obviously you're gutted inside for 10 minutes, then you get on with it. That's rugby.”