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Fear can inspire Munster captain Peter O'Mahony to greatest heights

By David Kelly

The past has formed Peter O'Mahony but it is in the present where he relentlessly seeks to evolve and improve.

He is only 25 but for more than half his life he has been captaincy material; from the Cork Con under-12s until his appointment as Munster captain two summers ago, he has borne responsibility with stoic, silent purpose.

Since returning from shoulder reconstruction, O'Mahony has proved a vital addition to a Munster back-row that will always remain in the shadows of the great combinations of the province's European title wins in 2006 and 2008.

O'Mahony was only starting school when Munster started reaching finals; he was finishing school when they ultimately began winning them.

Fear remains his constant companion; European week, under the lights, a sell-out crowd, crack French visitors. The fear that he may drop his standards and that the team he leads may drop theirs on his watch.

Munster are unbeaten for more than two months now but looking back will only avert the squad's eyes from what's ahead of them.

"It's non-negotiable, you've just go to win your home games," says a captain who rarely wallows in what has been before, instead focusing on what can be done next.

"That's what drives you on. Fear drives you on in European rugby; you have the first two games, you think you're doing alright and then, all of a sudden, it's back-to-back Clermont.

"It's the beautiful thing about this competition, how competitive it is and how it's turned out now. It's more competitive than it ever was so you have to be on your game.

"I can't remember what we've done over the last few years, it's in the past. It doesn't worry me what we've done over the last number of years in back-to-back games. All I know it's the pivotal period.

"It's ironic that we say that about the first two games as well. But you'll be able to tell by the next two games what way the pools are going. That's how important they are."

Clermont are one of only three teams to have a superior head-to-head record against Munster - the other two are Toulon and Cardiff Blues, albeit the latter remains a relic from relatively distant history.

"Clermont are a team that have always impressed me and that I've kept an eye on," adds O'Mahony admiringly and without any timbre of pithy plámás.

"There's a bit of a Munsterness about them, the way they've come so close over the last few years.

"They have so many players all over the park that they all don't have to be going well and still do savage damage, so I'd have a lot of respect for them."

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