Bolter O’Mahony ‘has drive to lead Lions’
DONNCHA O’Callaghan reckons forceful Irish back rower Peter O’Mahony is a viable contender for the Lions captaincy if Sam Warburton fails to recover from a knee injury in time for New Zealand.
Wales flanker Warburton has emerged as favourite to lead the Lions for a second time, while Alun Wyn Jones, Owen Farrell, Rory Best and Dylan Hartley have their supporters.
However, O’Callaghan believes Munster captain O’Mahony’s work ethic and selfless nature, epitomised in a sensational display for Ireland in last month’s Six nations victory over England, make him the perfect leadership candidate.
O’Callaghan told TRP: “If you want a guy who’s up for it every day, Peter O’Mahony’s your man. He would be a bolter but knowing him from a young age at Munster, he’s a standardsetter and a driver, and he never wastes a session.
“He brings everyone with him, he is all ‘team’ and has done a fantastic job with Munster. He parks his own ego and that was shown in the England game when he threw down a massive performance. That’s him the whole time and he would add to the Lions leadership.”
O’Callaghan added: “You want ruthless guys like that who know this tour is the pinnacle of their careers and are selfish enough to make victory happen. Guys like O’Mahony (below) are of an age where they want to push on and know no other way bar winning.”
As a former Test lock capped 94 times by Ireland, O’Callaghan accepts that none of his second row successors are likely to make the initial Lions cut, condemning Iain Henderson, Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner to standby duties.
However, one man he believes must be on the plane at all costs is Saracens lineout leader George Kruis, who he rates as the leading lock in Europe.
O’Callaghan said: “The second row is incredibly competitive and while you’d like guys like Devin and Donnacha to push on, at this moment there’s so much cream in the position that top quality players like Richie and Jonny Gray are also likely to miss out.
“The big one in the second row I want to see is George Kruis, because there’s a guy who’s really set the standards over the last two or three seasons.
“Maro Itoje gets all the credit he deserves, and quite rightly so, but watching a guy like Kruis is a real eye-opener and he’s the benchmark in the Northern Hemisphere and I’d want him to be given time to put his hand up.
He added: “The Lions really have to look at the 23 they use and I would take Sean Cronin for his impact off the bench. Like Ben Te’o with England, he adds something every time he comes on and against New Zealand, that’s going to be so important.”