Peter O’Mahony is happy to be home and eager to embrace a much-changed Munster set-up than the one he left behind to go to the World Cup.
Like the 11 others from his province who came home from Japan deeply disappointed that Ireland did not realise their potential at the tournament, the Munster captain is determined to turn that disappointment into a positive learning experience that can benefit his side’s latest European odyssey, which starts this Saturday with a Heineken Champions Cup Pool 4 opener at Ospreys.
The defeats to Japan and New Zealand in Japan will live with Ireland’s players for a long time to come but the hurt will be parked temporarily as they reconnect with their clubs and O’Mahony is no exception.
The only obstacle, in fact, has been getting on the same page as a squad that won four of its first five PRO14 games without its World Cup contingent and up to speed with the newly arrived members of the management team, senior coach Stephen Larkham and forwards coach Graham Rowntree.
“I’d like to think I have come back in as the same person I left as,” O’Mahony said yesterday. “Another experience under my belt but I haven’t changed the way that I have sat in my seat and commented at meetings or the way I have trained — I have trained as hard as I could. I think all the boys have.
“We had a lot of learning to do. There was a lot of change for us across the board — set-piece, attack, defence. There was lots of stuff we changed. We had a lot of learnings to do, which was good, which turned out well last week under pressure from Ulster.
That is all positive as far as the flanker is concerned, having stepped into a fresh environment in Munster’s High Performance Centre at the University of Limerick.
“It’s been great. Getting back to the group, there is huge enjoyment here. Obviously the lads did really well when we were away, which is great.
“There is massive competition, obviously since Stephen and ‘Wig’ (Rowntree) have come in. I have worked with Wig with the Lions. We had a great experience in New Zealand a couple of years ago.
“It’s great to have someone of his experience and expertise. He’s a great character, so it’s great to have him on board.
“We have done some great training already. He has got some great ideas and likewise with Stephen. He is a very enjoyable character as well. I really enjoy the way he presents and delivers messages. He has great thoughts in the game.”
Rowntree, too, is having a big impact on the way things are taking shape at Munster and the Englishman who likened the Irish province’s set-up and ethos to his former club Leicester Tigers has made a good impression on the skipper.
“I can see he is enjoying being here. I’m not talking out of turn, I don’t think. He is enjoying the group, he is enjoying the coaching staff.
O’Mahony said he felt in a good place personally to make his contribution to that cause.
“I’m feeling good. The last time I came home from a World Cup I was out for 12 months so it’s certainly better than that. I feel good, my body feels good. Two weeks off back home to the family, back home to Cork for two weeks. Spend a bit of time at home. As I said I was hugely ready to come back in last week. I was really looking forward to getting back in, to be honest. I hadn’t seen some of the boys for a long time. This place is home to me and I love coming home.
“You are back home. It’s different. It’s good to be back. It’s difficult, I always maintain touring is the best part of rugby but they are long tours.
“It’s nice to be back home. I love being here. I love being around the lads. We have a great group of guys. I have always said what a great group of guys we have at Ireland, I am very lucky to be able to say the same about here.
“I enjoy going to Irish camp. I love coming home as well and getting back into the guys who are here and battling hard to put in some great performances “It’s great to come home and be on top of our group in the PRO14 and being back into Europe now is another little bit enjoyment and an injection into the group.
“You can see it on a Monday. There is always a great buzz here when Europe comes around.”