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Dublin: 5°C Wednesday 25 November 2020

Leinster confident that Sean O'Brien will see game-time this weekend

‘We are very, very hopeful he is going to be involved this weekend. He knows he needs more minutes under his legs, more game-time.’

HE’S BEEN THERE or thereabouts since February, but Leinster backs coach Girvan Dempsey yesterday spoke in confident terms about the possibility of Sean O’Brien getting back on the field (for good) before the Champions Cup semi-final against Scarlets.

The powerful Ireland, Leinster and Lions back row missed the Six Nations through injury and, on his return in a Pro14 clash with Scarlets, suffered a recurrence of a shoulder problem that means he has played just 27 minutes of rugby since the December back-to-back wins over Exeter Chiefs.

“He didn’t want to come off,” Dempsey said of O’Brien’s March setback in Llanelli.

Sean O'Brien goes off injured Source: Ian Cook/INPHO

“You could see his body language when he came off in that game. That was the frustrating thing because he was out for a period of time and that was his re-introduction.

“I can’t give you any definitive (timeline) because he’s got to reach markers. And he has,” added the backs coach.

He has made progress. We are very, very hopeful he is going to be involved this weekend.

“He knows he needs more minutes under his legs, more game-time. He has made huge progress. We’re very confident he’s moving in the right direction.”

Leinster were able to dump defending champions Saracens out of the Champions Cup without O’Brien’s services. However, with Rhys Ruddock (hamstring) and Jack Conan (knee) joining Josh van der Flier on the sidelines and Jamie Heaslip retired, the depth of Leinster’s back row strength is being severely tested.

Sean O'Brien Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Scott Fardy, explicitly signed as a second row, played blindside last time out in Europe with Jordi Murphy taking a rare turn at eight while Dan Leavy excelled on the openside.  An O’Brien return would be an outstanding addition if only to replace Ruddock as the safety net behind that trio.

So even if the Tullow Tank doesn’t roll into action against Benetton this Saturday, Dempsey won’t rule out O’Brien following in Ruddock’s footsteps by taking a matchday squad number without a game to ramp him up to big-game level. Though the hope is that won’t be necessary.

“I wouldn’t say so, no. I would be hopeful he would be available for selection for Treviso.”

“He is an international back row player. In terms of his markers and his fitness, if he’s showing enough in training and we feel he’s capable, then he will come into consideration for selection.”

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Sean Farrell

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