Peter O’Mahony believes Ireland’s young players can only get stronger for the experience of the heartbreaking defeat in Italy at the weekend.
Such was the injury toll in the Ireland backline at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday that the Munster flanker was forced to play on the wing for the final hour of a 22-15 Six Nations loss he described as “the toughest one to take”.
Yet for all the injuries and disappointments of defeats to England, Scotland and the Italians, a frustrating draw with France and just one victory, the opening-day win over eventual champions Wales, O’Mahony, now a relative veteran of 14 caps at age 23, insisted there is much to be learned from the campaign and plenty of positives to for the future.
“There’s a super team here in the making, you know? A young team,” O’Mahony said. “It’s just essential we take the lessons from this Six Nations, take as much as we can out of it, all the young fellas. We’ve got to learn and take the positives, have a look at ourselves, improve the negatives and just get on with things.
“We’re not going to blame anything. We blooded a couple of young players who mightn’t have got a chance without the injuries. The big thing from this for us is as a squad, we’ve got to take lots of learnings from it.
“I think the biggest thing is to take one game at a time.
“We just have to stick with each other as well now, get behind everyone. No one’s dead, we’ve got to get on with this.
“We obviously want to be in a better place but there’ll be a next time, hopefully.”
O’Mahony described a “heartbroken, disappointed” dressing room after game and said defeat to Italy had been “the toughest one to take now, in a way”.
“We got ourselves back into the game and got to within a point and we just couldn’t seem to hold on, it was just silly mistakes, penalties at times killed us. We’ve just got to learn from these things.”
As for his turn on the wing, enforced after injuries to Keith Earls, Luke Marshall and substitute back Luke Fitzgerald, O’Mahony said a stint there for Cork Constitution in the All Ireland League two or three seasons back may not have been adequate preparation.
“I hadn’t a clue at the start but, to be fair, the lads looked after me,” he said, referring to Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney.
“Drico and Kearns just put me in the place I should have been and they gave me a brief outline at half-time but look, these things happen. Fifty minutes on the wing wasn’t exactly what I was expecting but what can you do? You’ve got to get on with these things.”
It also brought the unexpected experience of playing in a back line with O’Driscoll, in what might have been the iconic outside centre’s final Test and O’Mahony said the former captain had to make up his own mind about whether or not to retire.
“Look, that’s up to Drico, to be fair, he’s got a very important life outside of this as well so he’s going to weigh up his own options. I can’t make that call.
“He’s awesome, it’s brilliant to play with him. It’s an honour to say I played outside of him on the wing for 50 minutes against Italy.
“Nobody can speak highly enough of Drico, especially the lads who play with him.”
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