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'People in Ireland love giving out': O'Brien has his say on 'unfair' criticism of Leinster

The flanker thinks it’s “a load of shite” that Matt O’Connor has been the target of so much flak.

LEINSTER’S RETURNING FLANKER Sean O’Brien feels that his team-mates deserved a larger portion of the blame for Leinster’s patchy form this season with too much responsibility being laid at Matt O’Connor’s door.

Though Leinster have earned a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup there has been criticism from all corners as the team struggled for consistency, especially in attack.

Matt O'Connor with Sean O'Brien Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

While most players who are fit, available and in the day-to-day routine of match preparation can be unaware of the dissenting voices outside, O’Brien has had more free time to escape the bubble, and for him, the criticism still stings.

Asked what he thought about the criticism levelled at Leinster in his absence, he says: “I think it’s a load of shite, to be honest.”

Pressed a little further, he adds: ”Everything was on Matt, in my eyes looking in on it. I thought everything was being put to Matt and I thought it was unfair at times.

I think if you look at the way some of the players have come in to form over the last month or so and compare it to two months ago; they’re playing a lot better. It’s not because anything has changed really, it’s because players have gotten sharper at training, players have got that into a game.

“I suppose our intensity has lifted a lot in the last month compared to at the start. We were struggling maybe with those two things. I think some of the comments from some people were very unfair.”

The passage of time between the low ebbs in November – involving a draw to Treviso and a narrow home win over a makeshift Ospreys side – adds credibility to O’Brien’s claim that the incoming flak was unwarranted. Perhaps it was even impatient from a group of supporters who have enjoyed their ascension to Europe’s elite in the past six seasons.

“Maybe it is, maybe they’re a bit spoilt,” the flanker shrugged with a freshly repaired shoulder.

Sean O'Brien is tackled by Thomas Waldrom Happy to be back? O'Brien came through Ireland Wolfhounds' defeat to the Saxons unscathed. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“But we demand high standards of ourselves. It wasn’t good enough and, for me looking in from the outside, training every day where the lads are going in and out – you know the lads are disappointed with the performance. You know they’re upset about it, but they’re trying to put it right.”

All in all, criticism from the stands or outsiders isn’t about to force a change of ethos from O’Connor or Leinster. Certainly not after they defied it all by setting up a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup.

You could be sitting having your dinner at home in the local or whatever and you would hear someone giving out about the way Leinster are playing.

They’d be giving out ten minutes later about the way Munster are playing or something else. People in Ireland love to give out about something. It’s just part of their make-up. That’s just the way it is. Everyone is going to have their opinions.

“Like I said, it was right to be harsh and critical about the way the team was playing but I thought Matt took a lot of flak that he didn’t need to take and it wasn’t his doing as such.

“That’s my opinion.”

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Sean O’Brien teamed up with Guinness to announce extraordinary rugby experiences for rugby fans available through the GuinnessPlus App.  

Rugby fans who ‘check-in’ to the pub from now up until the 22nd March will be in with a chance to Follow in the team’s Footsteps by winning an incredible VIP trip for them and two friends to Ireland’s away games against Wales and England in the Guinness Summer Series. 

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Sean Farrell

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