O’Mahony: France match is our ‘Cup final’

Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony says that they are ready for what he has called a ‘Cup final’ which could seal the Six Nations title with a victory over France at the Stade de France on Saturday.

Ireland go into the match equal on six points with England and France but top it on account of a superior points difference.

Whilst England should eat into that as they take on pointless Italy in Rome earlier on Saturday victory for the Irish — which would be only their second in 42 years in Paris — should see them win the title and give iconic centre Brian O’Driscoll a fairytale end to his Test career.

O’Mahony, who returns to the side for his 23rd cap after missing last weekend’s win over Italy with shoulder and hamstring concerns, said the Irish hadn’t allowed talk about either O’Driscoll’s final match or claims by the centre they were the best Ireland side for years to interfere with their preparations.

“Of course we have grown in confidence in the past two weeks (the lead up to the Italy game and then the match itself a 46-7 win) and training has gone really well,” said the 24-year-old Munster captain.

“However, we haven’t talked about being a special team.

“We have got ready for what is a Cup final for us and it is about getting things right on the day.”

O’Mahony, who is seen as a future Ireland captain having captained the senior side last year on a tour of the United States and Canada, said there was no denying the Irish had performed well — their sole defeat was 13-10 to England — but they were taking nothing for granted.

“It has been a positive campaign. We have played nice rugby, we have been disciplined and we have attacked the ball.

“However, we have been vulnerable at times and I am sure the French will target those areas they see as being weaknesses.”

O’Mahony, who has just the one try to his credit for Ireland, said it still bemused him how the Irish had improved so much from their dismal showing in last year’s Six Nations where they finished second from bottom ahead of France.

They have since that Six Nations replaced coach Declan Kidney with former Leinster handler Joe Schmidt.

“It’s mad as the side is the bones of the one from last year,” said O’Mahony.

“I think the improvement is a combination of things. Firstly we’ve trained hard, and also we’ve learnt that it doesn’t stop once you come off the training ground, you can work on the mental side and we have grown mentally stronger.

“It’s a good place to be.”

O’Mahony said that while there was pressure on the team it was the sort that he yearned for.

“Ever since I was a small lad I have wanted to compete in these type of games and for trophies,” he said.

“On the other side of the coin there is obviously pressure but you learn to deal with it.

“Without doubt it is the biggest week of my life.”

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