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We'll be bang on the money for Japan: O'Mahony

 

No fear: Peter O’Mahony says Irish won’t be undercooked
No fear: Peter O’Mahony says Irish won’t be undercooked

By Cian Tracey

Before they turned their focus to matters at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday, many of the Ireland players had one eye on what was unfolding in Perth.

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What they saw was confirmation of what many have thought for a couple of years now - the gap between the All Blacks and the chasing pack is as narrow as it has been for some time.

Yes, Scott Barrett's red card late in the first half played a key role in Australia managing to put 47 points on the world champions, but the fact is that even before his dismissal, the Wallabies were well on top.

It's not often you can say that about a New Zealand team, and while we can expect to see a major backlash in the return game this weekend, there is no doubt that they are not as strong as the team who conquered all before them at the last World Cup.

Switching from the Bledisloe Cup game to Ireland's first hit-out of the season was always likely to see a major dip in intensity and skill level, but even still, it raised the nagging issue for some that southern hemisphere teams will be better prepared by the time they arrive in Japan next month.

Of course, it can work both ways in that teams from this part of the world are fresher, but that all-important match sharpness in such a competitive environment has fine-tuned the likes of Australia and the Springboks.

"I've kept an eye on most of those games. It's no shock how competitive they all are now when it's coming into the World Cup," admitted Peter O'Mahony.

"Rassie (Erasmus) has done a great job with South Africa. There were some impressive performances from them.

"The All Blacks are the All Blacks, and you saw how dangerous Australia were against them, so it's going to be unbelievably competitive.

"You'd be hard pushed to put your name on a team that would be an out and out favourite."

Ireland will take a step up in quality for their remaining three warm-up games as next week's trip to Twickenham is followed by back-to-back meetings with Six Nations champions Wales.

That will inevitably increase the risk of injury, yet getting into their groove and hitting the ground running in Japan is imperative for Joe Schmidt's side.

"We played Italy at the weekend, we now have England and Wales-Wales, it's not like we're going in with three or four handy ones," O'Mahony reasoned.

"I thought Italy were quality at the weekend and we're going into arguably two of the teams who are going to be competing for (the World Cup).

"They're going to be solely our focus now because if you look past either, you're staring down the barrel of 40-50 points.

"Wales are Grand Slam champions. They had the chance to go to No.1, and England - you saw the squad they picked. I've heard this rumour we'll be undercooked, but they're three serious games we have coming up."

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