Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony has no intention of changing his physical approach on his return from a three-game ban, saying it would be “unjust to the jersey”.
O’Mahony is back in contention for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations finale against England after missing most of the tournament through suspension following his costly early dismissal in the opening-weekend defeat to Wales.
The 31-year-old acknowledges his reckless shoulder-led hit to the head of Welsh prop Tomas Francis was “100 per cent wrong”, putting it down to an out-of-character mistake.
Yet he stopped short of saying he feels under pressure to make amends for the infringement and feels he retains the full support of team-mates ahead of the meeting with Eddie Jones’ men.
“Look, when it comes to the breakdown and when it comes to international rugby, you’ve got to be incredibly urgent, you’ve got to be incredibly accurate and you’ve got to bring physicality, and these incidents happen,” said O’Mahony.
“It’s a very physical game. I’ve always played hard. I’ve always played fairly, in my opinion. I 100 per cent was wrong in what happened in the incident but the guys know better than anyone, my team-mates know that I was acting on the best intent for the team that day and, unfortunately, that’s what happened.
“I don’t think they will be looking for me to put in any different performance than I give any other week when I play for Ireland, that would be unjust to the jersey. I go out every time to play as best I can and I think the lads around me know that.”
O’Mahony has had plenty of time to stew on his indiscretion, which left Ireland a man light for 66 minutes of the 21-16 loss at the Millennium Stadium on February 7.
He has subsequently spent six weeks on the sidelines and watched on helplessly as his country’s title hopes were swiftly extinguished by a round-two defeat to France.
Ireland go into the England game seeking to cement second spot in the standings after bouncing back from their worst start to a Six Nations campaign with away wins over Italy and Scotland.
Munster back-row O’Mahony is eager to be restored to Andy Farrell’s starting XV following the frustration of his enforced absence.
“It’s been hard. It’s different when you’re injured, you’re on a different buzz,” he said.
“But when you’re fit and healthy and ready to go and raring to go and you can’t, it makes it a little bit tougher. I spent a couple of great weeks with Munster and (I was) back in here last week to prepare the lads as best as possible, which I certainly enjoyed. But I’m not going to make any bones about it, I am looking forward to getting back playing.”
Ireland’s build-up has been dominated by the shock news of CJ Stander’s impending retirement.
With crowds still absent due to coronavirus restrictions, O’Mahony expressed regret that his provincial team-mate will not receive a send-off from supporters before returning to his native South Africa in the summer.
“It’s really unfortunate. I know his team-mates would like to play well for him and give him a good send-off and that will be the most important to him,” said O’Mahony.
“But I am sure there are lots of people around the country who would love to show their respect for what he’s done for Irish rugby and Munster rugby. That’s unfortunate but we will certainly do our very best to send him off on hopefully winning ways.”