Holidays are over: O'Brien ready for biggest challenge yet

Last season might have been good, but next season could be “unreal”, says O’Brien.

Eoin Reddan, Leo Cullen and Sean O'Brien (l-r) at the launch of Leinster's new jersey.
Eoin Reddan, Leo Cullen and Sean O'Brien (l-r) at the launch of Leinster's new jersey.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

ONLY SIX WEEKS have passed since Leinster’s stunning Heineken Cup victory over Northampton, but Sean O’Brien has already put the glory of Cardiff out of his mind in order to focus on the new and exciting challenges which lie in store.

With Ireland’s first World Cup warm-up match against Scotland scheduled for 6 August, the Blues’ big back row had to make do with a slightly curtailed summer break, joining up with the national squad for their first training camp in Carton House last week.

Coming off the back of last year’s demanding campaign, an extra few days of rest might have been welcomed by some. But, judging by O’Brien’s demeanour at today’s Leinster jersey launch, he simply cannot wait to throw himself into a season which could be his biggest yet.

“We were in all last week with Ireland which was good. It was a tough week, but I’m glad to be back training,” O’Brien said. “Another week and I would’ve probably been struggling coming back in.”

You do get a little bit bored when you’re used to training every day. It was good to get back in and see all the lads again, to get yourself going again.

The 24-year-old’s stellar performances in the back row for both province and country last season earned him a host of plaudits from around the rugby world, including the coveted ERC European Player of the Year Award. Add to that his Heineken Cup medal and it is easy to see why the season just gone was the most successful of O’Brien’s blossoming career.

The Carlow man is hardly one to rest on his laurels though, and the flame of ambition which spurred him on to these youthful successes still burns brightly.

“It was great, but as good as the time was, I think you have to move on. I don’t think we can keep thinking about it.”

I think what’s ahead of us is way bigger and could potentially be unreal. Last season is done and dusted. We’re coming into a new season now and it’s an exciting time.

This drive and determination appears to have permeated all aspects of the Leinster structure, with province convinced that they have the quality of players and coaches necessary to kick on to a higher level. Fionn Carr and Damien Browne have been drafted in from Connacht to bolster the squad, while Mike Ross, Eoin O’Malley and Rhys Ruddock have all agreed extensions to their current deals.

“Obviously it’s an exciting time,” said O’Brien. “With the signings that we have and the players who signed up for longer terms, it’s great. There’s a lot of youth there and a lot of experience there as well.”

I think everyone is hungry and the whole work ethic now within Leinster is unbelievable. We’ve top class coaches and top class players.

Before the real work begins with Leinster this winter, O’Brien is determined to secure his place on the plane to New Zealand. Given the competitive nature of the Irish pack, he refuses to take his place in the squad for granted, although Declan Kidney is hardly considering leaving one of his most consistent performers at home.

“Hopefully I’ll get selected and get to travel there,” he says rather modestly, before adding: “the goal would be to win the World Cup. It’s very simple really, we’re going over there to do that.”

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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