NOBODY MAKES A grin seem quite as tough as Sean O’Brien does.
The Leinster and Ireland openside has spent the majority of this year in conditioning mode; time divided between his recovery from a dislocated shoulder injury and, more recently, pre-season.
Neither scenarios are ever any pro player’s preferred activity. But at least O’Brien can console himself with the knowledge that this prep work for the new campaign will be done and dusted while most of his international peers are still weeks away from competitive action.
Having not traveled on Ireland’s tour to Argentina after making his provincial comeback from surgery with his year’s only three appearances in May, The Tullow Tank was able to get a full run at his conditioning plan this summer.
O’Brien gives off a determined vibe at the worst of times, but sitting in Clondalkin yesterday he was looking, fresh, lean and desperate to make contact in Saturday’s friendly against Ulster in Tallaght.
He’s asked how he can make the most of the season and stop a repeat injury on his shoulder, then comes the grin: “I won’t be careful with my shoulder.”
“People say ‘once your shoulder goes it’ll go again’, but the operation was perfect.
“My shoulder’s as tight and as strong as it has ever been. It’s hardly given me any trouble since. We’ll know in the next week or two whether it holds up or not, but it’s something I’m definitely not worried about.”
O’Brien’s name has been an all-too regular sight on the injured list with both Leinster and Ireland. And while Chris Henry’s rise ensured that his absence was well absorbed on the international scene, Matt O’Connor’s first season in charge was made all the more difficult with the loss of such a potent weapon.
“We were very disappointed where we’ve been over the past year or two in Europe – so
I think it’s in the back of a lot of lads’ heads that we want to go on and go one better.
He adds: “I’m ready to rock now, so hopefully I’ll be involved this weekend. I’m just looking forward to getting back playing.
“I want to try and get a run of games this year as best I can. I don’t want to be playing one week and off the next. I’ve stated that to Matt and Joe, so hopefully I can get a bit of consistency in my game and just get back playing rugby again.
“This long pre-season has done me the world of good. I’ve gotten stronger and fitter than I’ve been in the last few years. I’m looking forward to testing it out fairly soon.”