Rugby

Peter O’Mahony says ‘banana skin’ label is disrespectful to Wales

Warren Gatland’s winless visitors arrive at the Aviva Stadium as major underdogs.

Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony is preparing to take on Wales
Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony is preparing to take on Wales Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony is preparing to take on Wales (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony says it would be disrespectful to regard rivals Wales as a “banana skin” ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash in Dublin.

Warren Gatland’s winless visitors arrive at the Aviva Stadium as major underdogs on the back of narrow championship defeats to Scotland and England amid a transitional period.

Reigning champions Ireland have not lost at home in three years and are in pole position to retain their crown following thumping bonus-point victories over France and Italy.

Peter O’Mahony has been recalled as part of seven personnel changes made by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell
Peter O’Mahony has been recalled as part of seven personnel changes made by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell Peter O’Mahony has been recalled as part of seven personnel changes made by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell (Brian Lawless/PA)

Munster flanker O’Mahony, who returns as one of seven personnel changes from the 36-0 victory over the Azzurri in round two, believes Wales’ players are a “different animal” when representing their country.

“I think a banana skin is a disrespectful term for this Welsh team,” said the 34-year-old.

“I’ve learnt the hard way a good few times; these people are very, very proud and they grow massively when they pull on that red shirt.

“They’re a different animal, a different team and I’ve been on the receiving end of some heavy losses to these guys a few times.

“There is transition but it’s the Welsh 15 coming tomorrow, it’s no one else and I know from experience they’re an unbelievably proud nation and they play big and earn the jersey.

“That’s what we’ll 100 per cent be expecting tomorrow.”

Ireland are chasing an 18th successive home win to equal England’s record, set in 2017, of 11 consecutive Six Nations victories.

Comments from the Wales camp suggest they will attempt to cause “chaos” in a bid to knock the hosts off their perch and register a first championship win on Irish soil since 2012.

O’Mahony accepts Ireland’s sustained form during the past three years has put a target on their back.

“Look, that’s the game, isn’t it? We’ve a good record, we’re playing well,” he said.

Ireland have won six of their last seven meetings with Wales
Ireland have won six of their last seven meetings with Wales Ireland have won six of their last seven meetings with Wales (Nigel French/PA)

“We have spoken about it and we have a target on us but that comes with the territory and you have to be cool with that and that you are going to get the best of every team.

“We know when we’re good that we’re going to put teams under pressure and other teams know that now as well.

“As a result, we expect to get the best of every team and we have no doubt but that we’re going to get the best of Wales tomorrow.”

Ireland are on course to become the first side to claim back-to-back Grand Slam titles in the Six Nations era.

Yet O’Mahony, who replaced the retired Johnny Sexton as skipper after the World Cup, is not getting carried away.

“Oh Jaysus,” he replied when asked about the prospect of lifting silverware.

“Look, it would mean a huge amount for me tomorrow to win tomorrow, that’s what I’m focusing on.

“People can, I suppose, predict all they want but you can’t drop the ball of what’s in front of you.

“You’ve probably heard that before but as soon as you look past that, you know teams can trip you up and catch you out.”