Peter O’Mahony understands the honour of leading Ireland at the Six Nations

Ireland rugby’s newest captain talks about getting the tap on the shoulder from Farrell and leading his country at the Six Nations

Ireland captain Peter O'Mahony in an Ireland rugby shirt against a green background
Peter O’Mahony Irish Rugby captain, Peter O’Mahony at the launch of the 2024 Guinness Men’s Six Nations Championship at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. PICTURE: INPHO/Ben Brady (©INPHO/Ben Brady/©INPHO/Ben Brady)

FOLLOWING a bitter early exit at the Rugby World Cup, Peter O’Mahony is ready to embrace the new challenge of leading Ireland out at a tournament.

The Munster back row stalwart was a stand-out player for the boys in green in France and will look to build on those performances in the upcoming Six Nations.

Ireland will be looking to defend the title they won in March last year and replicate the grand-slam fashion in which they won the competition.

Speaking to media in Dublin at the launch of this year’s edition, O’Mahony said: “It’s a huge honour, I’m incredibly grateful to be asked.”

He admitted that this is not the first time he had led Ireland, having taken up the responsibility 10 times over his international career so far.

“To do it for a Six Nations campaign is probably the biggest honour of my career so far.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell then hinted that deep down he really was waiting for that tap on the shoulder for the position.

“I really wasn’t...What an honour to get the call and for [anyone] to get a phone call from Andy is a special thing,” said O’Mahony, who has amassed 101 caps so far for Ireland ahead of this year’s instalment.

“I feel great, I haven’t played a lot of rugby since the World Cup as I got a bang on the shoulder but I’ve been tipping away and it took a bit of time but you get back into it and obviously it was tough for a few weeks after the World Cup.

“You get back into it quite quickly, you get back with the group in Munster and you get an email to say you’ve been picked again for the Six Nations.”

“That email in itself for me is a special one, a few of the older ones, we used to get the letters sent home.”

O’Mahony is one of the older members of the Irish squad, having made his debut in the 2011 edition of the ‘Rugby’s Greatest Championship’.

“I still have that letter at home because not everyone gets to experience that feeling of driving up the road to meet 35 of the best players in the country, the same of them being among the best people you’ve come across.”

Ireland kick-off their campaign on Friday February 2 against France, who will be without their talisman Antoine Dupont, who has opted out of international 15-a-side rugby this year in favour of trying his hand at rugby sevens in an attempt to help France win gold at the Olympics in Paris.

This year’s competition will see a few star omissions from sides including Dupont, Andy Farrell’s son, England captain Owen Farrell and Wales’ Louis-Rees Zammit who will be travelling to the USA to try and make it to the NFL as part of the International Player Pathway

O’Mahony said: “I think that’s very much up to them, they’re persona decisions and whatever’s best for them, you know?

“Going and playing in the Olympics is, obviously, a huge thing to do and something that’s very special to lots of people.

“From our point of view, it’s not something that we can really control or affect so we’re very much worrying about us.

“It is unfortunate, from a player’s point of view you want to be competing against the very best in the world and guys like Dupont are without a shadow of a doubt, some of the best players in the world and bring a huge amount to the competition.”