Every rugby coach tells the same story — they want at least two players competing for every position on the pitch.
There are those cynics who claim wing three-quarter is one place where Munster will never have a surfeit of players vying for recognition but that is hardly the case nowadays.
When all the contenders were fully fit over the first four months of the season, Rassie Erasmus usually came down in favour of Darren Sweetnam and Keith Earls on the biggest days with Andrew Conway and Ronan O’Mahony among those snapping at their heels.
With the two frontrunners ruled out for much of the past month or so by injury, Conway and O’Mahony stepped up to the plate in highly impressive fashion, so much so that several sound judges felt they might well have earned top ranking.
While Conway was called up by Joe Schmidt to his 40-strong squad for the opening two games in the Six Nations Championship, there was no recognition for O’Mahony.
Disappointed as he may have been, he remains as determined as ever to catch Schmidt’s eye while at the same time convincing Rassie Erasmus that he is his best option on either wing.
“I’ve started 14 games so far including two of the big European games and have scored seven tries so far,” says O’Mahony. “It’s going well and I can’t complain. It’s a try every two games and if it stays going like that for the rest of the season I’ll be going alright.
“You want to play in the big games, you want to play in those European games. Growing up when I was going to the games with my old man or my friends, I always wanted to play in those big games.
“With all the back three players in such good form, it’s just hugely competitive. We’re all driving off each other really. It’s an unbelievable environment.”
One of O’Mahony’s most important tries came in the sixth and final European qualifier against Racing 92 when the home quarter-final was far from guaranteed.
“Thankfully Tyler (Bleyendaal) caught me out of the corner of his eye and put me over in the corner,” O’Mahony recalls. “You’re always trying to produce big plays. As a winger, your job is to create momentum for the team with the big plays and I felt I have done that during the season.”
O’Mahony attributes much of the team’s progress to a productive pre-season.
“I know from previous experience that it leads to a good year,” he noted. “Our S&C team has done an incredible job. I don’t think I’ve ever been fitter. I feel like I could really go all day on the pitch and I think everybody feels like that across the squad. You want that for the high attrition game we’re playing and to stay focused in defence and get good line speed. You have to be unbelievably fit and that’s one of our major goals as a team.
“You always want to have goals and believe in yourself. But if you told me back in September that we had a home quarter-final and an opportunity to go back top of the league this weekend, I’d have snapped your hand off for it.
“Why is it all going so well? I think everybody has bought into the systems. Our attack is going unbelievably well and we have a good points difference. We’re scoring a lot of tries and getting a lot of bonus point wins.
“If there are Irish supporters who get the Munster game and the Ireland game in, it’d be an unbelievable weekend in Edinburgh for them.
“Edinburgh are on a high. They are coming off three wins and are in a new stadium. This is their first PRO12 game there so they are going to come out with all guns blazing. This year we managed to get the nose up on them and managed to get a bonus point try and they are going to be looking for revenge.”
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