Peter O’Mahony is having no truck with talk of bonus points ahead of Ireland’s Six Nations assignment in Cardiff.
He knows that his Welsh counterparts will relish any such loose talk that may make its way across the Irish Sea before Friday week, regardless of whether the discussion is held by the players or the media and general public.
Results in the Six Nations last weekend have kept alive the possibility that Ireland and England will jostle for the title when the latter travel to Dublin for the final round but the hosts may need to win that by more than seven points unless they claim victory with four tries at the Principality Stadium.
There are other balls than that in the air — the Scots, for example, are still in the trophy hunt and play England next in Twickenham — but a five-point haul for Ireland against the Welsh would simplify matters as the end game approaches.
“If you heard that, you’d be licking your lips,” said O’Mahony of Wales.
Ireland have played Wales nine times at the iconic venue since it opened in 1999 and, though six wins stand up well against a trio of losses, they have only ever scored four tries or more and that in a World Cup warm-up two years ago when the haul was five.
Three tries were recorded twice but the reality is that a win of any hue will do.
“As we always have done under Joe (Schmidt), you start and you get a foothold in the game,” said O’Mahony. “You build and you might reassess things and you might put some goals together but, until then, I don’t think you can (target a bonus point) against a team of the calibre of Wales.”
Then again… let’s just say this isn’t the worst time to attempt it. Ireland have rediscovered their equilibrium after the off-key first-half against Scotland in round one while Wales are floundering after an unimpressive win over the Italians and a pair of losses to England and Scotland.
And Ireland go there in robust health.
Sean O’Brien, Cian Healy, Conor Murray, Andrew Trimble, and Rob Kearney all sat out yesterday’s open training session at the Aviva Stadium but only Kearney is an injury concern, with the Leinster full-back awaiting news on a scan for a groin issue picked up against France on Saturday.
Everyone else, whether they trained yesterday alongside the Ireland U20s or not, was nursing nothing more than bumps and bruises from the weekend’s 19-9 win. Among them, is Peter O’Mahony whose 12 minutes off the bench were his first for his country since November.
A hamstring injury hobbled O’Mahony’s chances of featuring against Scotland or Italy in the opening two rounds and, with the back row of Jamie Heaslip, O’Brien, and CJ Stander impressing as individuals and a collective, it may be some time before anyone else gets a shot at a start.
The form of Stander has been astounding. O’Mahony, like most observers, believes his Munster colleague is a shoo-in for the Lions and went even further by saying, “he would get on any starting XV” in the world right now, such is his form.
“He is obviously a fabulous athlete. Super amount of fitness. A physical, physical player and he has fitted in well with both Munster and Ireland. He is learning all the time. He is pushing everyone on ... He is great to be around, a great team guy, we are very lucky to have a player of his calibre.” So, it looks like more, unfamiliar cameos for O’Mahony to come.
There have been only two appearances off the bench for Munster this last three years and just the one for Ireland stretching back to 2012. His last start of any kind came back on January 21 against Racing 92 at Thomond Park so he could probably do with a run about with the province this week.
It’s unlikely to happen.
Schmidt released his players yesterday for four days but they reassemble in camp on Saturday. Munster play in Wales the same day. So do Leinster, so that all but scuppers the chances of O’Mahony, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, and Healy of bagging any Guinness Pro12 minutes.
Connacht and Ulster play the evening before, however, which means the other replacements from last Saturday — Kieran Marmion, Iain Henderson, Paddy Jackson, and Andrew Trimble — may be released back to their clubs ahead of the Welsh week.
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