Not screaming and roaring, rather going menacingly into the night. That is the leadership approach Warren Gatland sees Lions Test captain Peter O’Mahony possessing as he prepares to lead the tourists into the series opener with New Zealand.
“In this group we don’t have a lot of extroverts — we don’t have guys that talk for the sake of talking in a group setting, they are pretty quiet.
They are good in their micro units. Peter is very much like that,” the Lions head coach said of O’Mahony.
“I’ve been involved in groups before where there has sometimes been a lot of white noise and people just talking for the sake of it — talking a lot of rubbish — but there has been none of that with this group of players. There has been a lot of clarity. When players talk, others listen. He brings that.”
O’Mahony’s forward pack-mate Tadhg Furlong concurred with Gatland that his captain preferred action to words.
“I think Pete brings a dog, edge, a hunger and hard work. He leads a lot of the time by his actions and a lot of the unseen work that he does,” the tighthead prop said.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of him as a captain. When you go into the trenches and the game becomes tight, he’s the man everyone rows in behind.”
Gatland admitted he had a choice to make before announcing his captain for Eden Park with Wales skipper and second-row starter Alun Wyn Jones the most likely candidate but the Lions head coach said the lock was in a selection battle with Maro Itoje, who will start from the bench, and that gave O’Mahony the edge in his captaincy call.
“Alun Wyn Jones could have been potentially a captain, but he knows himself it was a big call between him and Maro — it was a toss of a coin — and he knows he is under pressure.”
The same could be said of O’Mahony’s fellow flanker Sean O’Brien who keeps tour captain Sam Warburton on the bench for the first Test. Yet Gatland said the Leinster and Ireland star, a 2013 tourist with the Lions, merited his start.
Asked for O’Brien’s qualities, he said: “Staying fit for a start. He would normally be injured by now. He has kept his body together. He hasn’t had a lot of steals but he has got over the ball a lot.
“His carrying has been phenomenal he has given us some real go-forward, he has given us voice and energy on the pitch and experience, he understands the game. He has been outstanding and the balance of the back-row… I think Faletau’s been exceptional. When you pick a forward pack, sometimes it’s not about having the most explosive individuals in a forward pack, you need a bit of glue.
“Peter is sometimes that glue. His numbers are good, George Kruis is like that. Maro is explosive, Alun Wyn can carry but George doesn’t take the ball up but his numbers are big, he’ll hit rucks for us and do the graft.
“You’re picking a pack where there are good rugby players but you need players who have good numbers and rucks and certain tackles are made and being accurate. So I think there’s a good balance at the moment.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved