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All-action Sean O'Brien all set for November while Leinster aim to cap excellent opening

The Tullow Tank says he’s ‘fit as a fiddle’ after an excellent 80-minute display to bridge a month long absence.

SEAN O’BRIEN JOKES that he’s about half a kilo away from being ready for Ireland’s November series.

But the look in his face suggests he’d be perfectly primed if he had to play a Test today.

The Tullow Tank looked a cut above throughout Leinster’s comfortable win over Ulster on Saturday; making yards, forcing turnovers, raiding space and creating tries by getting his hands on the ball twice in the same flowing move (from 1.40 in the clip below).

Source: PRO14 Rugby/YouTube

“Yeah, I was shouting and roaring at Dev and he managed to get it to me,” O’Brien says of his part in the first of Luke McGrath’s two tries.

“It was fairly straightforward after that. Don’t make a mess of it, thankfully I didn’t.”

Any shortcoming in his game could have been easily explained, Saturday was just O’Brien’s second appearance of the season having been out of commission for a month since suffering a stamp on his calf against Edinburgh. Yet he excelled through all 80 minutes and can count himself as the one guaranteed component of an ever-competitive back row when Ireland prepare to face South Africa on 11 November.

“I feel good,” says O’Brien, “I have looked after myself pretty well. Last week (before the Champions Cup clash with Glasgow) was touch and go. I was probably fit but not fit enough early in the week for selection. I have worked hard in the last few weeks. By the end of the game, I was blowing hard but that is to be expected.”

His man-of-the-match performance in Kingspan Stadium brought O’Brien out for his first media duties since the furore that followed the honest appraisal of his Lions tour experience. The back row was speaking before Rob Howley and Warren Gatland’s good cop bad cop routine in the Sunday papers and the Tullow man was understandably reticent on the subject of the summer tour.

No statements needed by word or deed. “It’s business as usual for me.”

Jacob Stockdale is tackled by Sean OÕBrien and Dan Leavy Source: Darren Kidd/INPHO

And for Leinster, business is booming.

Cullen may have bemoaned a ‘flat’ element to his team’s performance, but coming after recording a perfect 10 points in the opening two rounds of Europe, a win to put them second in the Pro14′s Conference B will keep spirits and expectations up through the November break.

With this weekend’s clash with Glasgow marking the end of a long opening block of fixtures, Cullen has every right to celebrate a successful opening to the campaign already. Glasgow may be sustaining a 100% record in the Pro14, but having lost at home to Leinster in Europe, there should be no doubt about who the powerhouse in this Championship is.

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour runs in to score a try from Ulster’s Aaron Cairns Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

As Cullen looks back on what will be a block of 10 competitive matches complete with inter-pros, Europe and a less than smooth trip to South Africa it’s somewhat fitting that he is interrupted by a ringing phone.

Less fitting, for a coach continually placing faith in a host of quality young homegrown players, was that the ringtone was the theme from ‘Dad’s Army’.

“It’s important that we stay focused,” Cullen says wryly after the ‘who do you think you are kidding’ chorus died down, ”with all these distractions going on.”

‘The dressing room, it was deadly silent’: Ulster disperse into November with plenty to chew on

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