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Battling O'Mahony has the heart of a Lion, says Johnson

By Sebastian Clayton

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony has brought himself right into Lions contention with a stunning performance after his late call-up against England, according to two-time British & Irish Lions captain Martin Johnson.

O'Mahony was brought into the Irish back row for his first start of the championship last Saturday when a hamstring injury to Jamie Heaslip ruled him out.

CJ Stander was moved to No. 8, with O'Mahony coming into blindside flanker, and it was arguably a blessing in disguise for Joe Schmidt's men.

The 27-year-old, who came off the bench against France and Wales, disrupted England's previously fluent line-out and was a nightmare for the English in the loose.

And with under a month until the Lions squad is announced by head coach Warren Gatland, Johnson expects O'Mahony's name to feature prominently in selection discussions.

"He's probably been on the bench thinking 'I want my chance'. He finally got it and, in a game that probably suited him, put pressure on England all the way through," said Johnson.

"He was in the middle of stuff and it elevates him into the conversation, it was a very good performance from him.

"It was a game that suited a hustle and bustle back rower, you can get in and make a nuisance of yourself, which is good play, if you're disrupting the opposition that's fantastic play.That whole back five area, there's some big calls to be made."

Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton knows all about being a successful British & Irish Lion having started all three Tests against Australia back in 2013.

And victory over England would have been all the sweeter for Sexton having over-shadowed the in-form England pair of George Ford and Owen Farrell.

But Johnson, who led the Lions in 1997 and 2001, thinks that Sexton is far from certain of his place in the starting Test team at this early stage.

"I don't think anyone nails a Test shirt in March," he said.

"You'll need at least three tens out there and I think Sexton will go, I think Farrell will go and I think Ford will go," added Johnson.

"Whether he takes Farrell as just a 12, and knows he can cover 10, it gives him options, but those three for me are the outstanding candidates in the ten position.

"When you get there, that's when you can nail a Test shirt down. Hopefully they have the tough proposition where everyone is playing well," he said.

"When you're playing in a Lions Tour what you did in March, that feels like a long long time ago.

"Get yourself on the plane during the 6 Nations, get yourself in the team whilst you're out there," he added.

The Tour starts in New Zealand on June 3.

Martin Johnson is an Ambassador for British & Irish Lions Principal Partner Standard Life Investments.

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