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Sean O'Brien: CJ Stander settling in as a fresh, strong voice in Ireland camp

O’Brien and Stander are cut from the same cloth, but the Tullow Tank has no desire to run at the South African.

THERE MUST BE part of Sean O’Brien that’s more than slightly relieved that he made the move to openside flanker all those years ago.

Because Ireland’s most-recently eligible back row is without doubt looming large in consideration for the other two positions.

CJ Stander with fans at the open training session Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

With Chris Henry missing the early weeks of the tournament through injury, O’Brien is arguably the one man guaranteed to start in Joe Schmidt’s first back row of 2016.

At blindside and number eight, CJ Stander is on the scent of a debut.

Favoured positions aside, O’Brien and Stander would appear to have a lot in common. They lead by example, they speak in straightforward terms and are men of the people with a solid physique that turns into a devastating carrying option on the field. Which begged the question, have they had a training ground run-in yet?

Sean O'Brien Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“No, I don’t want to either,” the Tullow Tank joked, but he has seen enough now as an opponent and team-mate of Stander’s to recognise the quality of the South African.

“He has a bit of everything to his game. He’s a very skillful player. He’s one of the leaders down in Munster and it’s the same here, he’s talking and communicating on the field and he’s not too shy about things.

“It’s nice to have a fresh voice around the place too.

He’s fitted in very well. He’s been good and he’s listened and asked a lot of questions. It’s good to have him in the squad and it’s going well.”

The Munster captain is one of five fresh and uncapped players in Ireland’s squad for the opening rounds of this year’s tournament. And O’Brien feels that the presence of that quartet of the hard-hitting Stander, Finlay Bealham, Josh van der Flier, Ultan Dillane and Stuart McCloskey has added excitement to an otherwise steady preparation process.

“There’s a few fresh faces, younger guys in the squad and that’s exciting. Other than that, nothing has changed, it’s just back to work and it’s an exciting place to be at the moment.

“We’ve got to know a lot of the new faces on a personal level now and it’s good that they’ve fitted right in. They’re working very hard and they’ve done very well this year.”

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Sean Farrell

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