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Sean O'Brien wants to remain at Leinster but admits lure of 'attractive' offers from abroad

The Ireland flanker is happy at the province but accepts big-money offers from abroad are difficult to turn away.

O'Brien hopes to return to action this week.
O'Brien hopes to return to action this week.

NOT FOR THE first time Sean O’Brien has admitted the prospect of playing his club rugby abroad is an attractive one but the flanker maintains he wants to remain at Leinster.

O’Brien’s current contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) ends next summer and he’ll enter negotiations over the coming weeks with a view to signing an extended deal.

But the Ireland international conceded if a lucrative offer was tabled by one of the Top 14 heavyweights, it would be difficult not to entertain the idea of moving away from Ireland.

“Hopefully that’s the case,” O’Brien says when asked if he wants to remain at Leinster. “We’ll see where we go in the next few weeks, it’s something I want to do.

“But lads want to experience different things and you have to do what’s right for you at the end of the day. You only have so long in your career and they’re all things to think about.

“They have monster budgets compared to our provinces so when a lad gets a big deal thrown at him, they have to think about it. You have to see what’s best for you and what you want to do with your future.

“Lads will have tough decision over the next few weeks and it’s not an easy time for players negotiating contracts and stuff like that but there’s more important issues on the field at the moment so we’ll keep focused on that.”

O’Brien rejected the advances of Toulon to sign a new two-year contract with the IRFU back in January 2014 and with it up for renewal again, it’s only natural for the speculation to resurface.

With Jonathan Sexton returning to Leinster from Racing Metro this season, there are currently no Irish internationals plying their trade outside of the island but it’s becoming an increasingly appealing option.

Earlier this week, Ian Madigan was linked with a move to Bristol while JJ Hanrahan’s switch to Northampton appears to have paid instant dividend.

And O’Brien admits the financial power of the clubs in France and England makes it difficult for the provinces to compete in the boardroom.

“I’m not sure it’s going to be a problem going forward but it’s something players are going to have to think about,” he continued.

“It’s very attractive to go to the big clubs in France and England because they have major budgets. It’s probably something the provinces and union can’t compete with.

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Sean OÕBrien, Ian Madigan and Eoin Reddan O'Brien alongside Ian Madigan and Eoin Reddan at tonight's fan event in Life Style Sports. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“There are loads of other aspects you have to think about too when you’re at this stage of your career. Lads have to do what suits them and what’s best for them and what’s best for their career.

“It’s something you have to think about and hopefully at the end of the day make the right decision.”

The Lions’ flanker previously cited the IRFU’s player welfare protocols as a reason to stay in Ireland and insisted the players are looked after very well by the union and province.

O’Brien is currently working his way back to fitness after sustaining a head injury in the nightmare defeat to Wasps two weekends ago.

He hopes to return to action this Friday at the RDS but didn’t sound overly confident he would pass the concussion protocols in time for the visit of Ulster.

“Hopefully I’ll be involved this week if I could, we’ll see how this week goes, I ran today and felt good so just take it one step at a time and make sure I’m right.

“You obviously want to be playing in those big games and the result didn’t go our way and you feel you can help the team so it’s difficult watching it.”

Leo Cullen’s men will hope to end a two-game losing streak when the Guinness Pro12 returns this weekend – and O’Brien says the squad are channelling their frustrations into righting the wrongs.

“We’re obviously disappointed and  hurt over the results the last few weeks but training has been good, a good edge to it and we’re just looking forward to getting back on the field again.

“We’re under no illusions with the situation we’re in and we have to dig our way out of a hole but we’re not far away on the other hand and there were positives to take and we need to move on and get a win under our belt.

“You win some games, you lose some games. We’ve lost two in the Champions Cup this year and we can’t afford to make any more mistakes and it’s now about regrouping and wearing the disappointment of the losses and move on and improve for the next day.”

Ian Madigan, Sean O’Brien and Eoin Reddan spoke at the launch of the Life Style Sports “We Are Many, We Are Leinster” campaign that celebrates and rewards the inspirational Leinster supporters. Shop the range now at www.lifestylesports.com/leinster.

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