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O'Mahony ready for ultimate rugby Test

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/06/2017 By Nick Purewal

Peter O'Mahony will lead the British and Irish Lions into Saturday's first Test against New Zealand with the words of late mentor Anthony 'Axel' Foley ringing in his ears.

Former Ireland No.8 Foley died suddenly in October last year, when Munster were gearing up to play in Paris.

The talismanic Munster head coach's death left a province in grief.

Captain O'Mahony offered a heartfelt tribute in the aftermath and he has honoured his friend and former boss with his performances ever since.

The bullish flanker will skipper the Lions at Eden Park on Saturday after tour captain Sam Warburton was deemed good enough only for the reserves bench.

He has vowed to lead the tourists in a style Foley would have appreciated.

"Axel's a rugby man, so he would have told us all 'play your game, play what you do and what you know'," O'Mahony said.

"There's no point in trying to be something you're not over here.

"You've been picked for a reason, so if you go out and play as well as you can, no one's going to fault you for that."

Saturday's clash will be the first time a Lions tour captain has missed the opening Test since England's Doug Prentice did so in 1930.

O'Mahony, 27, could so easily have missed the tour altogether had he not excelled as a last-minute injury replacement in Ireland's 13-9 Six Nations win over England in March.

The Munster player jumped off the bench for the full 80 minutes in Dublin after Jamie Heaslip suffered a back problem soon before kick-off.

His relentless showing sealed his tour credentials.

O'Mahony missed Ireland's first-ever win over the All Blacks, the stunning 40-29 in Chicago on November 5.

In that match, Ireland formed a figure-of-eight line-up to face the haka in tribute to Foley at Soldier Field.

So while Ireland have toppled the All Blacks, O'Mahony has not - and the Cork native is itching to take on the world champions.

"It's the Lions against the All Blacks and you have got to use everything you have had over your entire rugby career and try and use it all for Saturday," he said.

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