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Will Greenwood has backed Peter O’Mahony to skipper the Lions against New Zealand on Saturday

Former Lions tourist Will Greenwood has backed Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony to captain Warren Gatland’s side in their first Test against New Zealand on Saturday at Eden Park.

The blindside captained the Lions in their 32-10 victory over the Maori All Blacks last Saturday, and should he lead the side out against the All Blacks, it would cap a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the man who only started one Six Nations clash last campaign.

Having missed the entirety of the 2015/16 season due to an ACL knee injury picked up at the 2015 World Cup, O’Mahony did not start a 2017 Six Nations game until the final weekend against England.

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O'Mahony captained the Lions against the Maori All Blacks last Saturday
O’Mahony captained the Lions against the Maori All Blacks last Saturday

A late call-up to the starting XV after Jamie Heaslip’s injury in the warm-up, O’Mahony thrived against Eddie Jones’ then unbeaten charges and such was the calibre of his display, forced his way into Gatland’s 41-man Lions touring party.

And Greenwood, who toured with the Lions in 1997, 2001 and 2005, now says he expects the Munsterman to start in the backrow alongside Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau, ahead of tour skipper Sam Warburton, and lead the side out as captain no less.

“If we keep going back to this aerial battle, this mauling, this driving, this power game that the Lions might bring, then we look to Peter O’Mahony to wear the number six jersey and the captains armband,” Greenwood told Sky Sports News HQ.

The Irish flanker was exceptional against the Crusaders alongside Sean O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau
The Irish flanker was exceptional against the Crusaders alongside Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau

“It’s strange to think that he wasn’t due to play against England in the Six Nations’ final game, Jamie Heaslip just tweaked his back before in the warm-up.

“O’Mahony was called-up, on he went, and was exceptional in that game. He was the decisive factor between England and Ireland that day.

“He got awarded the captaincy against the Maori All Blacks, and led brilliantly. It was a super win, the biggest win against the Maori’s I think since 1930, so a special day.