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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 17 December, 2018

'I'll certainly record it': Schmidt will keep a close eye on returning O'Brien

The flanker captains Leinster tomorrow night and will come into Schmidt’s thinking for England.

O'Brien makes his return against Scarlets on Friday.
O'Brien makes his return against Scarlets on Friday.
Image: Ramsey Cardy

JOE SCHMIDT SAYS Sean O’Brien will come back into his thinking for the final game of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign after the flanker was named to start for Leinster tomorrow night.

O’Brien will make his long-awaited return from injury when the province face Scarlets in their rearranged Pro14 clash on Friday and the Ireland head coach will closely monitor his performance ahead of England.

The 31-year-old, who had an extra week to rehabilitate his hip injury because of the adverse weather, has been sidelined since the start of December but his return to fitness is a timely boost for Ireland.

O’Brien wasn’t considered for the round four fixture with Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, but will instead build up his match fitness and sharpness for Leinster.

When asked if it means the Lions flanker — who captains the province in Wales — will come back into the frame for Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day, Schmidt said: “Yeah course it does. I’ll be watching and watching how he leads the side.

“He tends to lead himself pretty well on the pitch. So that’s of interest of us without a doubt. If I don’t see the game live with the U20s on at a similar time, I’ll certainly record it and have a look at it later in the evening.”

While O’Brien will be making just his fifth Leinster appearance of the season tomorrow, Schmidt has shown no hesitation in throwing Garry Ringrose straight back in despite the centre having just 80 minutes under his belt since his return from a recent ankle issue.

Schmidt has released Jack Conan for provincial duty this weekend with the number eight appearing to pay for a defensive error when coming off the bench against Wales last time out.

Jordi Murphy is named on the Ireland bench for Scotland on Saturday, while Jordan Larmour was preferred to Fergus McFadden in the number 23 jersey, although the latter won’t be involved for Leo Cullen’s side tomorrow night.

Barry Daly was called into the Ireland camp at Carton House earlier this week but will start for Leinster in the top-of-the-table clash in Conference B [KO 7.35pm, Sky Sports].

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Ryan Bailey

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