Leinster's Jimmy O'Brien. James Crombie/INPHO

'He anticipates play really well. He’s got a good eye for the game'

Jimmy O’Brien has impressed for Leinster since returning from injury.

JIMMY O’BRIEN IS pushing hard for a place in Leinster’s Champions Cup final matchday squad.

The versatile Leinster back has recently returned from a five-month injury lay-off but has looked sharp and dangerous since recovering from his neck injury.

O’Brien came off the bench in the Champions Cup semi-final defeat of Northampton Saints before being promoted to the starting team for last Saturday’s URC defeat of the Ospreys.

On a night where Leinster finished strong to hammer their visitors 61-14, O’Brien played a prominent role throughout.

“He was good, wasn’t he?” says Leinster attack coach Andrew Goodman.

“Sharp. And Tommy (O’Brien) at the same time, those boys are coming in with the speed they can inject into our game, it was great to see.

They are both players that work well off their wings and create space for others around them. They are both great finishers as well.

“It was a nice evening at the RDS to get them back up and running, and great to have that competition for spots coming into the end of the season.”

Capable of playing on either wing, fullback or at centre, the 27-year-old started with the number 11 on his back and quickly made his presence felt.

O’Brien would have been keen to make an impression with the Champions Cup final in mind, and enjoyed a dream start at the RDS – running in Leinster’s first try with just over two minutes played. 


The score was a good reminder of what O’Brien offers – and perhaps what Leinster have been missing in his absence. The Kildare man boasts pace few in the Leinster backline can match and uses his speed to sprint home from deep.

JOB try close

That pace also makes O’Brien a valuable asset in defence.

On 20 minutes the winger tracked across to take possession after an Ospreys counter-attack ended with Dan Edwards chasing through his own kick in behind. It was an important defensive contribution from O’Brien as Leinster went through a sticky patch as the Ospreys come from 14-0 down to level the game.


You can be sure the Leinster coaches enjoyed that moment as much as some of his attacking touches.

The Ospreys get another go but on their next attack they fail to take an advantage of a 2-v-1 down the right wing. As the Ospreys move the ball wide O’Brien shoots up and his positioning appears to put Max Nagy off making a pass, with the fullback’s hesitation allowing Jordan Larmour snap in with a tackle having made a big effort to get across.

Tackle 2

As Leinster began to reassert their dominance O’Brien then showed lovely hands to gather this Henshaw pass out the back, even if his following kick didn’t quite have the desired effect.

Catch 1

O’Brien also made an excellent start to the second half, this sharp break and offload sending Jason Jenkins over for the bonus-point try just 60 seconds after the restart.

Break and assist

After calling for the pass from Henshaw, O’Brien makes the right decision by cutting inside and slipping past two defenders before passing to Jenkins. 

Break and assist close

O’Brien saw less of the ball across the second half but finished with another moment of real class, producing this perfectly-weighted kick-through to send Tommy O’Brien over for Leinster’s ninth try.

Kick through

Again, it’s really good decision making by O’Brien. Initially he shapes up to pass the ball wide through the hands, before slipping a superb kick through for his namesake. 

Kick TOB

It capped a highly productive return to the starting team, O’Brien topping the stats for successive carries (10), clean breaks (5) and metres made (183).

“His work-rate is massive,” says Goodman.

“You’ll see a lot of the opportunities or bits of play he was involved in was him working from his wing to the other side of the field.

He anticipates play really well, he gets himself into good support lines, and he’s a skillful lad, he can run, kick, pass and offload.

“He just pops up everywhere. He’s got a good eye for the game.”

Having hit the ground running on his first start in five months, O’Brien will now hope he can push for inclusion in next week’s Champions Cup final.

There’s fierce competition across the Leinster backline – particularly if Hugo Keenan and Garry Ringrose come back into the equation – but O’Brien’s form will surely give the Leinster coaching staff plenty to weigh up.

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