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O'Brien hopeful injured O'Connell can stay on as a fearsome Lions cheerleader

The Tullow Tank has one last chance to impress the Lions coaching staff, in Melbourne, today.

Sean O'Brien and Lions captain today Dan Lydiate.
Sean O'Brien and Lions captain today Dan Lydiate.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

LIONS FLANKER SEAN O’BRIEN admits the fractured arm that has ended Paul O’Connell’s Lions tour is a huge blow to the squad but he has backed the second row cover to deliver in the Second Test against Australia.

O’Brien starts at openside flanker against the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Stadium today and is eager to lay down a final selection marker before the second game against a wounded Wallaby side. While the Lions back row has got through the tour relatively unscathed, every other unit [bar the scrum-halves] has been forced to cope with injuries.

O’Connell’s tour-ending injury was confirmed in the early hours of Monday morning but the Lions coaching staff are hopeful that the 2009 tour captain will remain with the squad until the Test Series is complete.

O’Brien told TheScore.ie, “He’s obviously a massive loss but that’s a decision for Paulie to make, if he wants to stay on and what his mindset is. He has a big influence over the younger lads here. Personally, I’d like to see him stay on.” He added:

I think it’s just his presence. He’s a lot of experience. He’s a big, physical man and has won a lot of trophies in his career. He has maintained his game for so long now. Off the field as well, he’s someone a lot of guys look up to. You can confide in him and talk to him. He’ll be missed.”

O’Brien argues that the Lions’ strength-in-depth means the squad should be able to cope with the latest two injuries – O’Connell and Alex Corbisiero – and still target closing out the series with confidence. He said, “I don’t think it is that big of a problem. There are lots of lads here that are more than capable of covering the positions. That shows the strength of the squad.”

Many television viewers would have been surprised to see O’Brien sitting among the Lions subs on Saturday, during the First Test, but he was only kitted out, as 24th man, to assist in the on-field warm-ups and drills before the game kicked off. “I was there just in case [injuries] did happen,” he revealed, “but doing the warm-up and feeling that buzz, then sitting in your chair for the rest of the match was disappointing.”

There’s no point going out thinking you haven’t a chance. You have to go out and do the best you can do.

This Lions tour has been unusual as it has been the backline rather than the forwards that have sustained the most injuries. That haze of knocks, pulls and strains is clearing with Tommy Bowe [hand] and Manu Tuilagi [shoulder] back in Test contention. Inside centre Tuilagi has been out of action for two weeks after sustaining nerve damage to his shoulder.

He commented, “After the Reds game I couldn’t really move my arm but all credit to the physios and medics for helping me with the rehab and getting me ready to play again… I’ve been doing a lot of contact on it, just to test it out, and it feels fine.”

*TheScore.ie will be liveblogging all the Lions v Melbourne Rebels action live from 10am today.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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