Peter O’Mahony: Ireland are embracing favourites tag ahead of Grand Slam decider against England
Peter O’Mahony says that Ireland are embracing their world number one and favourites tag and are intent on emulating the self-assured All Blacks mentality as they look to deliver on Six Nations Grand Slam expectations.
Ireland are heavy favourites with the bookmakers and pundits ahead of their final game of the tournament against England this weekend.
Andy Farrell’s side have topped the world rankings since July last year after securing an historic Test series victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand.
O’Mahony concedes that past Ireland teams would have shied away from the hype of being the team to beat.
Grand Slam talk
Conversely, this side is making a concerted effort to enhance that mindset of being the favourites and are embracing the opportunity to deliver a maiden Grand Slam since Farrell took charge of the side.
Asked if in-camp Grand Slam talk was forbidden, he replied: “No, it’s not banned (but) I know where you are coming from.
“In other teams, we would have tried to keep it under the rope, but the favourites tag, the number one in the world tag… these are things that the best teams we’ve looked at – you look at the All Blacks – they walk into these things and face them, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
“At the same time, you’ve got to back that up with performances. There’s no point in walking into things and not performing well.
“At the end of the day, that’s the goal, to put our best foot forward every Saturday or Sunday that we go out. And it’s no different this weekend.”
A running theme for Ireland this week is to play the game and not the occasion, as a full house is expected at the Aviva Stadium on Super Saturday.
It’s set to be a festive weekend for Ireland, with St. Patrick’s Day on Friday before the match.
Biggest game under Farrell’s tutelage
O’Mahony has won three previous Six Nations titles with Ireland, including the 2018 Grand Slam, and despite the history, he has made with the side, he is bracing for the most momentous match for his country.
“It’s probably the biggest one,” said the 93 cap veteran.
“Certainly the biggest one of this group’s campaign, but it’s great to be able to sit here and say these games are getting bigger and bigger.
“That was certainly our plan at the start of this.
“These weeks don’t come around very often in anyone’s career. We’ve certainly talked about treating it with the utmost respect but enjoying the week.
“I think playing the game, not the occasion is the thing for us.”
Best version of England
Turning his attention to the weekend’s opponents, O’Mahony expects a tough challenge from England and believes there is no chance of Steve Borthwick’s side rolling over.
“I’m not buying it,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to play alongside a big chunk of that English team, and I know how proud they are.
“I know what quality of player they are, quality of person they are, and how important it would be for them to put on a performance for themselves more than anyone, to show themselves the potential that I certainly know they have.
“We’re expecting the best version of those English boys to come to the Aviva.”
The final round of fixtures in the 2023 Six Nations all take place on Saturday, March 18. The day’s action kicks off with Scotland versus Italy in Edinburgh before France battles Wales in Paris. The main event sees the Grand Slam chasing Ireland host England.
READ MORE: Can you name the last Ireland team to complete the Grand Slam in 2018?