ENGLAND ARE EXPECTING Peter O’Mahony to come straight back into Ireland’s starting XV for their Six Nations clash in Dublin on Saturday.
Second row James Ryan has been ruled out with a head injury, meaning Tadhg Beirne could move from blindside flanker to lock, with O’Mahony returning in the number six shirt.
The Munster captain has missed Ireland’s last three games due to the suspension he was handed following his red card against Wales in the opening round of the championship.
If O’Mahony starts at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, he won’t have played for six weeks, but England expect him to be in the Ireland team that Andy Farrell will name tomorrow.
“Losing any player like [James Ryan] is a massive but they have Peter O’Mahony back so it’s a little bit of like for like,” said England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot today.
“Tadhg Beirne might shift into the second row and Peter O’Mahony might slip onto the side of the scrum. He [O’Mahony] is similar to Beirne – a pretty high work rate, great defensive players, very good in the line-out, a line-out contesting player, intelligent, leadership.
“There’s a lot there to admire in what the Munster captain brings to the Irish team.
“I think it’s like for like but losing a player like that [Ryan] is never easy to replace. He was superb against Scotland, he really picked their lineout to pieces. It’s a big loss but they’ll take it in their stride.”
CJ Stander is set to play his last game for Ireland on Saturday after announcing that he will retire from professional rugby at the end of this season.
England are sure that Stander’s impending exit will add to the emotion of the occasion for Ireland.
“Absolutely,” said Proudfoot. “He’s been a talisman for their pack and team for a long, long time. He plays with his heart on his sleeve. He’s a tough, tough competitor, tough man. I’m sure they’ll want to close his chapter on the right note.
“We can expect a highly-motivated Irish team really looking to come at us. We need to confront that and get ourselves on the front foot.”