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'I have always played fairly': Peter O'Mahony breaks silence on his Six Nations red card

By Liam Heagney

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Peter O’Mahony has broken his silence about the red card he was shown when playing for Ireland in the opening round of this year’s Guinness Six Nations. The back row was banished by referee Wayne Barnes for contact to the head of Wales’ Tomas Francis.

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The February 7 sending-off for what was deemed reckless play resulted in a three-match for the 31-year-old who has since seen Rhys Ruddock and Tadhg Beirne (twice) wear the No6 Ireland jersey in his absence.

Now back in the mix and available for selection to play against England in next Saturday’s championship finale, O’Mahony has reflected on the red card incident 37 days after 14-man Ireland were beaten by the Welsh in Cardiff.

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Johnny Sexton looks ahead to Ireland versus England and reflects on CJ Stander’s retirement
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Johnny Sexton looks ahead to Ireland versus England and reflects on CJ Stander’s retirement

“When it comes to breakdown and it comes to international rugby you have got to be incredibly urgent, you have got to be incredibly accurate and you have got to bring physicality and these incidents happen,” he explained.

“It’s a very physical game. I have always played hard, I have always played fairly in my opinion. Look, I 100 per cent was wrong in what happened in the incident but the guys know better than anyone, my teammates know that I was acting on the best intent to make the best intention for the team that day and unfortunately that is what happened.

“I don’t think they will be looking for me to put in any different performance that I go out any other week to play for Ireland, that would be unjust to the jersey. I go out every time to play as best as I can and more importantly than anyone the lads around me know that.

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“It’s been hard,” he added when asked about coping with his enforced layoff. “It’s different when you are injured, you’re on a different buzz. But when you are fit and healthy and ready to go and you are raring to go and you can’t it makes it a little tougher.

“But I spent a couple of great weeks with Munster, training with the A team, trying to help the seniors prepare for their games, back in here last week to prepare the lads as best as possible which I certainly enjoyed but I am not going to make any bones about it. I’m looking forward to getting back playing.”

While O’Mahony’s suspension coincided with him agreeing to a two-year IRFU central contract extension, CJ Stander, his similarly aged Munster and Ireland colleague, has taken a very different decision, spurning a new deal in preference of retiring from rugby next summer.

Very shocked when he told us all last night,” said O’Mahony about the South African back row who first came to Ireland in 2012. “I didn’t see it coming, I don’t think anyone did, but he explained his reasons and his reasons are very valid ones, very noble ones and everyone will respect his decision.

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“The man has given an incredible amount to not just Ireland but Munster as well, Limerick, an incredible teammate and he has got to give a bit back to his family who have sacrificed a huge amount for him. We will hopefully make this week and the couple of months he has left to play with us and me certainly as special as we can.

“From the day he arrived in Munster he did his best to buy into our culture and now he is creating bits of our culture. I’d always think who do kids look up to? You want to be someone who the young fellas look up to and it’s a nice compliment to give to someone, that there are kids around probably not just Ireland, around the British Isles and beyond, who want to be like CJ which is a huge compliment.

“He is an incredible family man, which he has spoken about and how important that is to him, an incredible friend and an incredible teammate. I can’t say much more… it’s no secret that he has never had a long-term injury or any sort of an injury at all.

“It’s down to how he looks after himself, his professionalism, his recovery, he brings an incredible edge, not just when it comes to the weekend but in training as well. He is an immaculate trainer, incredibly coachable which is something I would rate him also as one of the best.

“His ability to listen and learn new skills, like the player he arrived as and the player he is now, he has come such a long way and he has lapped up the great coaches that myself and himself have spent a huge amount of time with.

“Just a competitor, you can see it in him. We have all watched him play 50 off times for Ireland and way over 100 for Munster. He is just competitive with everything. That is what makes him such an incredible teammate.”

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'I have always played fairly': Peter O'Mahony breaks silence on his Six Nations red card

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