The wild man of the Wallabies’ pack has put Wales on notice ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup showdown, saying he’s not just warming the seat for vice-captain Michael Hooper’s return.
Hooper, who will miss the decisive Pool A clash (on Sunday morning AEDT) after copping a one-game suspension for foul play on England’s Mike Brown, has formed a devastating one-two punch with David Pocock in the Wallabies’ back row.
But his absence presents an exciting opportunity for the rising star of Australia’s burgeoning back-row stocks: 21-year-old Sean McMahon.
And the Melbourne Rebels’ star, who made his debut against Wales just 11 months ago, insists he’s no shrinking violet and won’t be wasting his chance on the big stage of Twickenham.
“I’m going to do what I always do, take (the opportunity) with both hands and get out there and do whatever I can for the team,” says McMahon, whose parents Pat and Shauna will be in the crowd.
“Whether it’s bringing that physicality and aggression that I tend to bring to games or just getting out there and working for the boys.”
Wales have opted to fight Australia’s feared ball-scavengers at their own game, selecting the twin-attack of Justin Tipuric and skipper Sam Warburton, both natural openside flankers, alongside No.8 Taulupe Faletau in a powerful back row.
It ensures the battle at the breakdown is going to be fierce, and McMahon has no qualms explaining what his approach will be.
He’ll be going in just as hard as the suspended Hooper did when he charged in to clear Brown out of the ruck and landed in hot water.
“It will definitely be a big battle, we’re going to be brutal at the ruck and bring that physicality at the ruck,” he said.
“Poey, our back row and our forwards are ready for the challenge and our backs are just as good.
“To play alongside a world-class player like Poey is going be an unbelievable experience.
“I haven’t had much of a chance to do that so, playing alongside him and feeding off him, is hopefully only going to improve my game.”
Certainly, the young buck won’t be holding anything back.
“That’s not Seany’s style. I don’t think it’s in his repertoire, holding back,” lock Dean Mumm laughed.
Since the Wallabies landed in England nearly a month ago, word has filtered out about McMahon’s ‘no prisoners’ approach to training.
Veterans quickly worked out that the safest option was simply to not cross his path.
“Even at training, he’s just so physical,” explains 98-Test veteran Matt Giteau.
“You know when you’re training against him that there’s never a gentlemen’s (agreement).
“He comes hard. He’s 100 per cent in everything he does.”
Pocock, with eight turnovers won at the breakdown in his two World Cup starts this tournament, will be the team’s primary ball-fetcher – which should free McMahon up to impose himself on other areas of the game.
And while Hooper’s tenacious defence will surely be missed, McMahon’s power running is expected to give Australia extra punch through the middle.
“It allows me to just focus on that physicality and that defensive side of the game and really work on ball carries to bring that physical and hard leg drive into the game,” McMahon said.