Peter O’Mahony has described Ireland’s opening game of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations against Wales as “a massive tone-setter” as the rivals prepare to do battle in Cardiff.
Ireland defeated Wales 24-14 in Dublin during last year’s Championship before getting the better of Wayne Pivac’s men again in the Autumn Nations Cup, securing a 32-9 win.
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Farrell’s side went on to finish his maiden Guinness Six Nations campaign in charge in third while defending champions Wales ended up in fifth with just one win from five.
But Wales have a not lost to Ireland in Cardiff since 2013 and with a crop of new players coming through their ranks, O’Mahony believes the hosts will be unpredictable this year.
“Cardiff is an incredibly difficult place to go and get a result,” said O’Mahony, speaking from the IRFU’s High Performance Centre. “We’re in no doubt that it’s going to be a huge challenge.
“The players and the squad they’ve picked, they’re obviously going to want to improve on where they came from in the last few months. I’ve no doubt.
“With the changes there, it leaves them a little bit unpredictable from our point of view. All we can do is focus on ourselves for the week.
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“I think everyone understands how important the first game in the Championship is. It’s a massive tone-setter for the rest of it. That’s the way we’ll be taking it for the weekend.”
Should O’Mahony be selected to start on Sunday, he will be locked in a fearsome back-row contest with Pivac able to call on the likes of Taulupe Faletau and Justin Tipuric.
Aaron Wainwright, Josh Navidi and the returning Dan Lydiate are also in contention for selection but no matter who he lines up against, O’Mahony knows he will have to be at his best.
“I think if you were to pick guys with the complete package,” he said. “Faletau, guys like Tipuric and Wainwright, there isn’t much in the game they can’t do. Particularly as a unit.
“Guys like Tipuric and Wainwright, I think they’re excellent lineout operators. Their ball carrying skills, their tackling, it’s hard to pick a weakness in their game really.
“But it’s hard to pick many weaknesses in a lot of back rowers in international Test teams at the moment. You’re talking about playing against four of the best back rowers around at the moment.
“It seems to be that way every week and these guys won’t be any different. They’re going to be on top of their game, I’ve no doubt of that.”