There's few more frustrating experiences along life’s flight path than a holding pattern.
All Andy Farrell and his squad of players and backroom staff can do for now is sit back, train and await news on when, or even if, their Six Nations campaign can continue on its journey. Peter O’Mahony doesn’t pretend it’s perfect but he isn’t grumbling about the delay.
“It’s not something we have a huge amount of control over, unfortunately. Look, it’s frustrating. Obviously we want to play. You battle through it. There’s lots of stuff we have to worry about and that’s not one of them. I try not to let it bother me. Know what I mean?”
It’s a smart approach given the ongoing doubt spawned by the coronavirus which has already caused the postponement of Ireland’s home game with Italy this Saturday and could yet result in further rearrangements, or even cancellations, including the side’s game against France in Paris.
The French government have ordered the cancellation of enclosed gatherings of more than 5,000 people until further notice.
For O’Mahony and his Ireland teammates, the loss of next weekend’s fourth round tie against the Azzurri has already robbed them of the opportunity to wash that Twickenham loss out of their hair and move on to Paris in two weekends’ time with equilibrium restored.
Placing the Italian game in cold storage has created a vacuum that can’t be filled fully by updates on the spread or otherwise of COVID-19 and the result, in rugby terms, has been an even longer period than normal for us all to dwell on that convincing defeat to England.
The criticism has been considerable this last week and more and it hasn’t emanate from all corners. Social media was a vast reservoir of opinions, some of them measured and others unforgiveably personal and insulting. Such is the way of things online.
Journalists and former players have had their say too. Jonathan Sexton responded to all this late last week with his observation that a conductor needs to turn his back to the audience and O’Mahony has been firm in his determination to avoid the takes of men he once played with.
“Probably the main reason I don’t engage with it is because I like to keep friendships with guys. I know they need to do their thing so I genuinely don’t engage with it. We are by far our sternest critics and I don’t need another group outside that to listen to as well.
“We’ll go through it with a fine toothcomb and be the most serious critics of ourselves, as a group, as a pack, as a back line,” he explained. “There is no-one harder on us than ourselves. Outside of that it doesn’t really bother me.” That’s not completely true.
No man is an island and no player exists in isolation outside of camp. O’Mahony is one of those in Andy Farrell’s squad who has a young family behind him and those without children have plenty of loved ones of their own whose love and respect they crave.
Lose in the manner Ireland did in Twickenham, and on more than one occasion across such a disappointing 2019, and it becomes all but impossible to quarantine the hurt and the disappointment inside the dressing-room or team HQ.
“Sure you feel that you’ve let people down. You feel that you’ve let the boys down, family, which is the hardest part. It’s another reason why I don’t draw the rest of [the criticism] on me because we have enough to worry about in regards to them: what the lads think and what your family think. They’re tough days,” he admitted. “They’re tough days until you get back together, which is the safe place. And it’s great to have your family and you go home to them and, as I said, they always think that you’re great.
“But when you’re in the Six Nations you’re kind of longing to get back into the group and get it sorted, get the reviews done and turn a page because, listen, it’s a good group to be around and you long to get back together and get it sorted together.”