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O'Mahony sets his sights on a crack at the All Blacks

By Michael Sadlier

Watching events dramatically unfold in Chicago from his couch, and roaring at the screen, was wonderful yet it gnawed at Peter O'Mahony and he is struggling to conceal it.

Obviously the Munster skipper totally embraced what occurred at Soldier Field while he was also deeply moved by the team's figure of eight tribute to Anthony Foley, as the All Blacks performed the Haka. But, of course, he really wanted to be there in the vanguard of everything that happened on that historic day.

But after just five games for Munster in his comeback from a serious knee injury, which finished his season at last autumn's World Cup, O'Mahony was left at home in front of the screen to ponder on what might have been for the 27-year-old.

Yes, it ate at him all right but the main focus is now all about the back-rower's latest battle, namely winning his place back in Joe Schmidt's starting side with the emphasis being on doing a job this Saturday, in his expected comeback in green against Canada, in order to have his own shot at the All Blacks the following weekend.

"It was very special to see the lads do that lovely tribute to Anthony," says O'Mahony who broke down at last month's Munster Press conference ahead of Foley's funeral and the province's subsequently stirring annihilation of Glasgow Warriors at an emotionally-charged Thomond Park.

But getting that green jersey back is now the priority and quickly returning to where he was before last October's season-ending injury now pretty much hinges on how he fares against former Ulster coach Mark Anscombe's Canada on Saturday.

It looks a tall order for himself and the similarly returning Sean O'Brien, what with CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier ahead of them in Schmidt's thoughts.

The 35-times capped O'Mahony used to be an inked-in Ireland starter, and was one of the squad's core leaders, until his knee crumpled in what proved to be a ruinous World Cup pool win over France which also saw the last of Paul O'Connell as a player.

"I watched the game at home," he says of the epic Chicago Test victory which came a day after he had helped Munster hammer the Ospreys.

"But it's done now.

"It was a fabulous day and win for Irish rugby but, as I say, we have to move on.

"I certainly have to move on and prepare myself (for Canada).

"You want to be involved as much as you can, especially on occasions like that," he adds of the Soldier Field game.

O'Mahony can't disguise his burning desire to be running out against the All Blacks again to do battle with them just as he did in the heartbreaking defeat of 2013.

Time to stake his claim again.

Belfast Telegraph


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