Peter O’Mahony has pointed to an increased focus on skills work in the Ireland camp following his wonderful offload to set up Bundee Aki’s try against Italy on Saturday. O’Mahony, a second-half substitute in the 50-17 rout, produced one of the moments of the game when he somehow managed to free a hand and release Aki despite the attention of two Italian defenders.

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Ireland ran in seven tries against Italy, including two from rookie Hugo Keenan, but O’Mahony’s offload was still one of the most-talked about moments in the post-match reaction.

It’s not the type of play the Munster backrow is generally known for, and O’Mahony was clearly delighted to make such an impact just moments after coming on in place of Caelan Doris, with television cameras picking up his reaction after watching Aki dive over the line.

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And speaking at an Ireland press conference today ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations meeting with France, O’Mahony said there has been an increased focus on skills work since Andy Farrell came on board as head coach following last year’s Rugby World Cup.

During a hugely disappointing 2019 season, Ireland were often criticised for what appeared to be a limited and predictable gameplan, leading to calls for a more expansive approach to be introduced.

And O’Mahony outlined that some of the more free-flowing, heads-up rugby seen against Italy is a direct result of the increased focus on skills work under Farrell, who also brought in former England coach Mike Catt as Assistant Coach.

“Was it my best pass in an Ireland jersey? I’ve had a couple of good ones, but it would be top three,” O’Mahony said when asked about his pass to Aki.

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“I think we’ve done a lot of work with Mike Catt, he’s done a lot of skills stuff with us. Fogs (John Fogarty, Scrum Coach), Simon (Easterby, Forwards Coach) has done a lot work with us, and Faz is allowing us to make those decisions ourselves,” O’Mahony said.

“If you’re comfortable with it and you back yourself, you’re given the license to do it. And it comes down to work, you can’t just do that at the weekend without there being a lot of practice involved.

“And since this (coaching) group has taken over, I remember the first day in the High Performance Centre, straight into skills was the first thing we went into. (I’ve) Just come up from it there as well. So we’re constantly practicing it and if you do it enough it’s bound to fall into your game.”

O’Mahony and Munster teammate Chris Farrell had to delay joining up with the Ireland squad ahead of the Italy game after being identified as close contacts of two positive Covid-19 cases at the province.

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The pair were required to self-isolate as a result, but O’Mahony has warned that more players could find themselves in a similar situation over the Autumn Test window.

Obviously it’s not ideal, but given the circumstances there’s a good chance myself and the lads won’t be the last people to do it,” he said.

“You’ve heard it from us already, we’re very privileged to be in the position that we are, that we can still go to work every day at the moment.

“There are people going through a lot worse than I did for two weeks on my own. It’s fairly trivial to be honest with you, if you put it in context. I’m not going to be sitting here whinging about it.

“It (probably) won’t be the first or last time that it’s going to happen to someone in this group. But look, you’ve just got to battle on with it and that’s what I did.”

Earlier on Monday the IRFU confirmed that Ulster’s John Cooney had joined the squad to provide additional cover at scrum-half, after Jamison Gibson-Park reported some tightness in his hamstring.

Keith Earls could also be in the running to feature against France in Paris as he steps up his recovery from a back problem, and a decision on his availability will be made over the coming days.

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