The Haggard Badger’s value to Ireland highlighted ahead of milestone match

By Sports Desk October 05, 2023

Iain Henderson revealed Test centurion Peter O’Mahony has been dubbed the “Haggard Badger” by his Ireland team-mates.

O’Mahony will become only the 10th Irishman to earn 100 caps after being selected to start Saturday’s crucial Rugby World Cup clash with Scotland in Paris.

Head coach Andy Farrell and captain Johnny Sexton were among those to pay tribute to the Munster skipper ahead of his landmark outing.

Lock Henderson also offered a glowing testimony but could not resist divulging an unflattering nickname based on O’Mahony’s well-worn features and greying hair, which was reportedly invented by prop Dave Kilcoyne.

Asked about the 34-year-old, Henderson replied: “The Haggard Badger?

“The Haggard Badger, I think he’s been coined. I’m not 100 per cent sure where that came from.”

Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, who was sitting next to Henderson, confirmed Kilcoyne was responsible, before the Ulster skipper continued: “Pete’s a massive leader for our group.

“Not only in terms of rugby but in terms of what we stand for as players, the social side of things, how well knitted together we are, he’s a massive part of that.

“Obviously I’m sure a lot of the cliches will come out now, but Peter rings true to most of them. He’s deserving of every minute of the jerseys he’s played in and, to this day, still nailing that down.

“You can see in Faz’s (Farrell’s) selections and how highly Faz speaks of him, I think that all rings true to the type of person he is. And long may that continue.”

O’Mahony is poised to join Ireland greats Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Rory Best, Paul O’Connell and John Hayes on the select list of centurions, plus current team-mates Cian Healy, Sexton, Conor Murray and Keith Earls.

The flanker, who made his international debut against Italy in 2012, will seek to mark the milestone appearance by helping his country avoid an upset against the Scots to reach the knockout stages in France.

“We can sit here all day the two of us and talk about what he brings, what he means to us all, what type of bloke he is, what type of family man he is,” Farrell, sitting alongside Sexton, said of O’Mahony.

“But we’d be here the whole press conference. To sum him up, he’s selfless.

“You guys would see the performance on the pitch and it’s heroic from Pete. You can see what it means for him to play for Ireland.

“But we obviously see behind the scenes and he’s definitely, 100 per cent, one of the best I’ve ever seen at making the dressing room feel right.

“And it’s not just a skill. It’s him being himself because it’s genuine and I’m sure Johnny would echo this that there’s no better man that you would want sat at the side of you in the dressing room at the weekend than Peter O’Mahony.”

Sexton added: “I don’t think you guys get to see the real Peter O’Mahony.

“He gives very little away when he sits up here, one word answers, but he’s the life and soul of the dressing room behind closed doors and it’s a privilege to play with him all the time.

“We’ll be playing for him as much as we are for ourselves on Saturday.”

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    Van Der Merwe – who scored a double in the Scots’ win at Twickenham last year – was again England’s tormentor-in-chief as he became the first man in a dark blue jersey to score a Calcutta Cup hat-trick.

    “After a defeat and performance when you don’t think you’ve maximised your potential, it’s always disappointment,” said head coach Borthwick.

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    England arrived in Edinburgh on the back of one defeat in nine matches, but they received something of a reality check at the hands of a Scotland side who are more established as a team under Gregor Townsend.

    “We’d all love progression to be a nice linear path but ultimately it’s not, especially when you are trying to do it at this level,” said Borthwick.

    “What you saw is a team that is trying to develop, a team that is trying to add layers to their game.

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    “It’s a big learning experience, it’s a real painful lesson against a Scotland team that’s been together a long time. They had a lot of experience.

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    Van Der Merwe’s match-winning treble – including a stunning burst from his own half to edge the Scots ahead – took him to 26 tries for Scotland, within one of the national team’s all-time record try-scorer Stuart Hogg.

    Co-captain Rory Darge admitted it was a huge advantage to his side to have a powerful, jet-heeled outlet like the Edinburgh wing to get them up the pitch in such barnstorming fashion.

    “It’s game-changing when he has a half-opportunity, takes it and scores,” said the back-rower. “That (second try while trailing 10-7) is a massive momentum-swinger.

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    A fortnight after their agonising home defeat by France, Darge was delighted that Scotland got their championship back on track as they made it two wins from three, with trips to Italy and Ireland to come next month.

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    “We’re definitely delighted to get the win – it’s the Calcutta Cup,” he said. “It’s my first one so I’m delighted personally.

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    England started brightly and opened up an early 10-0 lead, with George Furbank scoring his first international try, but Steve Borthwick’s men offered little thereafter as their unbeaten start to the championship shuddered to a halt.

    Remarkably, the Red Rose have now won only one of the last seven meetings with Scotland.

    Led into battle by courageous captain Jamie George just over a week after he lost his mother to cancer, England made a strong start.

    Having forced the Scots back from the outset, the Red Rose got themselves ahead in the fifth minute when Northampton full-back Furbank – making his first start in almost two years – bounded over gleefully from close range after being played in by Elliot Daly at the end of a brilliant move.

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    Huw Jones made a dash for the line on the right and after being dragged to the ground, the centre flipped the ball up into the path of Van Der Merwe, who produced a superb piece of skill to find a gap and bolt over.

    The early wind had been removed from England’s sails and Van Der Merwe edged the Scots in front on the half-hour mark with a breathtaking score from his own half.

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    The wing put on the after-burners and raced clear up the left, leaving a trail of white jerseys in his slipstream. Finn Russell added the extras before stretching the hosts’ advantage to 17-10 with a penalty shortly afterwards.

    England were wobbling, but Ford kept his cool to reduce their interval deficit to four points with an opportunist drop goal from 35 yards out.

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    Fin Smith – with the chance to bring his side within a converted try of victory – hit the post with the conversion, leaving the Scots nine points ahead and able to see out the remainder of the match in relatively comfortable fashion.

    Not even a yellow card in the closing moments for a tip tackle could take the shine off Van Der Merwe’s day.

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