Peter O’Mahony has underlined just how deep Covid-hit Munster are mining into their playing pool for this Sunday’s European clash at Wasps by saying he trained with a player who could have been Keith Earls’s son.
With most of its first-team senior squad quarantined in either South Africa or Ireland following a Covid outbreak on tour two weeks ago, O’Mahony looks set to captain a side that will feature nine fellow Test players, including 34-year-old Earls, who missed the ill-fated United Rugby Championship trip and will be made up of academy players and possibly age-grade talent from the province’s National (NTS) and Provincial Training (PTS) Squads.
O’Mahony, 32, said: “I think I trained with a guy who was born in 2004 the other day, Earlsy could have been his father we reckoned!
"I wouldn't have come across him, there's guys just out of school, but to see some of the talent that's come on is incredible.
"It's really encouraging for the club."
Munster on Tuesday announced they were registering an additional 22 players with Heineken Champions Cup organisers EPCR ahead of a newly extended deadline on Wednesday to give the four URC teams - Munster, Cardiff, Scarlets, and Zebre Parma - the opportunity to field matchday 23s for this weekend’s opening round of pool games after they were all left stranded in South Africa when the UK and EU governments began imposing travel bans on southern African countries after the emergence of the new omicron variant of Covid-19.
Scarlets on Tuesday forfeited their game at Bristol Bears saying they were unable to meet the minimum requirement of 19 players, including six front-rowers, and were handed a 28-0 defeat. Yet O’Mahony said on Wednesday he had never doubted Munster’s ability to play their fixture in Coventry.
"No, I didn't, to be honest with you. We're hugely proud of our academy and our NTS squad, we produce a lot of players who play for Munster who grow up in the province and I knew having come through that system that we could fall back there and I've seen in the last two weeks what the guys have come in and done.
"In the session that I've just got off from now, young guys were running Wasps plays for us and they were incredible, it was a credit to them, to be fair to them.
"So it never crossed my mind, to be honest with you, that we wouldn't be able to fulfil it.”
The Munster skipper added that he believed the circumstances represented a great opportunity for both the province and the players who will be handed a unique chance to make their European debuts this weekend.
"It is a great opportunity and a great test for the club.
"There's a huge flip-side positive to it. It's not ideal for the guys who aren't here and the coaching staff and beyond, but the guys who are left - it's a great opportunity."