'I felt strong again' - The Tullow Tank is back to his rampaging best

Sean O’Brien was man of the match as Ireland secured a second consecutive Six Nations title.

Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield

IT WAS ALWAYS likely to take Sean O’Brien several games to get up to speed after a torrid 15 months of shoulder injury nightmares, and we perhaps did not fully expect the impact he made at Murrayfield yesterday.

Paul O'Connell and Sean O'Brien celebrate with the trophy O'Brien celebrates with Ireland captain Paul O'Connell. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Tullow Tank was named man of the match for a two-try display that featured some sensational ball-carrying, as well as eight telling hits in defence.

Those who witnessed O’Brien’s performance probably don’t need the stats to back up their impression, but seven defenders beaten in just 12 carries tells a true story.

This was a timely reminder that Ireland possess a world-class openside flanker; the prospect of an even fitter, sharper O’Brien at the World Cup later this year certainly excites.

“I felt good out there,” said O’Brien after his superb showing.

I felt strong again and last week how tough that Test match [against Wales] was stood to us fitness wise. I’m finally feeling back to myself again and it has been a long 15 months but I’m very happy to be back.”

The Carlow native thrived as Joe Schmidt’s side played with slightly more freedom in terms of their ball-in-hand attack, O’Brien’s huge bust of the Scottish defence in the first half standing out in particular.

His first try came from a cleverly-worked lineout play, although he still had to break the covering tackle of Dougie Fife to cross. The second was more about brute force from close range.

“There has been a lot of talk about the style of play the last few weeks but defences in this competition are very strong,” said O’Brien of Ireland’s approach in Murrayfield.

“Analysis and what not, they are able to close people down and the quality of player and strength in depth, you have really good players playing against you. You have to bring them to a place where they are under a lot of pressure and maybe we haven’t done that in the last few weeks.

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Sean O'Brien scores their second try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“But we can be very proud of ourselves today of how we approached the game and did our business. I wouldn’t say it was a different style.

“We have been trying to play a bit like that the last few weeks but we have been let down at times and it’s down to our own errors as well, letting teams into games. We approached it the right way [in Scotland], did our jobs.”

O’Brien underlines that there was never any doubt among the Irish squad that they were good enough for the task at hand in Edinburgh, even after Wales set a lofty benchmark early in the final day with their heavy win against Italy in Rome.

Indeed, after another successful Six Nations campaign under Joe Schmidt, the only negative to look back on is the defeat to Warren Gatland’s Wales in Cardiff. But even that low point has positive connotations for Ireland.

Looking back now, it might not have been the worst thing in the world,” said O’Brien. “This way we know we can learn and move forward.

“That was the biggest thing to come out of last week, that we didn’t do our jobs correctly and we didn’t do what we did during [training in] the week.

“If we approach the game like we did today, for instance, make sure everyone is going 100 miles an hour, we know we are never too far away.”

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Murray Kinsella

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