Peter O’Mahony will decide in 10 days whether he will be fit enough to make a surprise return to rugby on Ireland’s three-match tour of South Africa next month.
The Munster and Ireland flanker has not played since tearing knee ligaments at the World Cup in October and it was expected that he would not take to the field again until September, but he now has a chance of making the summer tour.
“I am very, very close and I’m nearly back training with the squad. I won’t say ‘never’ but I will have to make a decision over the next 10 days, see what the story is. I have been given every opportunity but I am just going to see how training goes over those next 10 days and make a call on the rest of the season then,” O’Mahony said at the Zurich IRUPA awards in Dublin last night.
“I am a rugby player, touring is one of the best parts of rugby and I love to be able to tour. Any tour you get to go on is always great.
“I have never been to South Africa, it is a place I’d love to go and obviously the fact we have never won there it would be lovely to go and have a nice tour and be in with a chance to set history.
“Of course I’d love to go but I have to take other things into account not just my head. Of course my head wants to go but I’ll just have top see whether my body will allow me to go.”
However, the 26-year-old is wary that he could cause himself further damage if he forces himself back onto the pitch ahead of schedule.
“Yes it is of course [a risk], I don’t want to go to South Africa and not give a good account of myself or of how I can play rugby. It’ll be partly medical staff but I’ve got to be honest with myself and if I’m not right I’ll put my hand up.”
Meanwhile, CJ Stander has been voted in by his fellow players as the IRUPA player of the year to cap a fine individual season for the Munster captain.
The South African, who qualified for Ireland late last year, made his international debut in the Six Nations against Wales in February where his performance won him the man of the match award.
It has been a tough year for Stander at provincial level where he has stepped up as skipper for Munster after O’Mahony’s injury at the World Cup.
Munster go into a must-win Guinness PRO12 match against Scarlets looking to secure their place in next season’s Champions Cup after a tumultuous league campaign. However, Stander has been an iron man for both province and country this season, clocking up over 1,800 minutes in 25 games scoring eight tries between Munster and Ireland.
Stander saw off competition from fellow Ireland internationals Rory Best, Robbie Henshaw and Jack McGrath to win the award at the Zurich IRUPA awards ceremony held in Dublin last night.
“Personally, I’m delighted with the award. It’s massive for me,” Stander said. “When I walked in this evening, I saw all the names and photos of the winners before me. It’s unbelievable. It is something that was in the back of my mind.
“It is something I didn’t really work towards. I just worked hard for the team and the players around me made it easy for me.”
In the young player of the year category, Leinster’s Josh van der Flier’s breakthrough was recognised as he took home the Nevin Spence young player of the year award.
The Ireland flanker was nominated alongside provincial team-mate Garry Ringrose and Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey, but his impact for Ireland during the Six Nations and his all-action performances for Leinster clearly tipped the voting in his favour.
“It feels really good,” the 23-year-old said. “It’s such a great award to win but the greatest honour is to be selected alongside such great players as Garry and Stu, they’ve been unbelievable all season so I’m a bit speechless in a way.”
Van der Flier will now by vying for a place on the tour to South Africa and he will need a strong finish in Leinster’s Guinness PRO12 campaign to further press his credentials. “Yes, it’s been an unbelievable season really. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, I don’t really want it to end,” Van der Flier said.
“I just enjoyed every single minute of it really and I just want it to keep going. I’ve been very fortunate to get the chances I have.” Munster and Ireland icon Ronan O’Gara was also inducted into the BNY Mellon IRUPA hall of fame to recognise a career which saw him win a Grand Slam and two Heineken Cups.
Sene Naoupu, wife of Connacht back row George, took home the BNY Mellon Women’s XV player of the year award after a breakthrough season with Ireland. The Galwegians centre played in all five of Ireland’s Six Nations games, scoring one try and playing a pivotal role in the new-looking attacking side which finished third in the tournament.
The Women’s Seven’s player of the year award went to Munster’s Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, who was part of the team which qualified for the World Series for the first time.
Leinster’s Isaac Boss was awarded the Vodafone Medal for Excellence, which rewards on field effort combined with off field commitment to the game while The Zurich Contribution to Irish Society honour was presented to former Leinster player, Niall Breslin, who has worked diligently to promote mental health charities.
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