'I need those games' - SOB keen on Australia tour after missing Grand Slam

The 31-year-old expects to return for Leinster next week against Benetton.

Updated Apr 5th 2018, 7:47 AM

SEAN O’BRIEN has endured another frustrating few months in a career littered with them.

While he has had many, many highs – Heineken Cups, a Six Nations, Lions tours – injuries have often gnawed away at him.

Missing out on a Grand Slam this year was obviously very tough but the Tullow man only had to look at Jamie Heaslip coming onto the pitch at the Aviva Stadium before last weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-final between Leinster and Saracens to feel grateful.

Sean O'Brien O'Brien believes he will be ready for the Benetton game in two weekends. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Heaslip was freakishly fit and almost always available to play during his career but he had the misfortunate to have his playing days ended by injury. The Leinster supporters thanked him with a rousing reception last weekend.

So, as he has suffered with hip and shoulder injuries in recent months, O’Brien has tried his best to keep perspective.

“I said to myself ‘it could always be worse’, you know?” said O’Brien, speaking at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps in De La Salle Palmerston FC yesterday.

“At least I’m still getting back from these things and I don’t have something that is career-ending or putting me in jeopardy of my career being ended.

“So, they’re all fixable things – touch wood – so far. We’re in a lucky place to be in the situation we’re in, some of us.

“That’s why, when we have opportunities to win trophies and be a part of something special you don’t want to miss out.”

O’Brien says he hopes to be ready to make his return for Leinster in two weekends’ time for the Guinness Pro14 clash with Benetton at the RDS on 14 April.

An appearance there would be the ideal launch pad to feature in the Champions Cup semi-final against the Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium a week later, with O’Brien eager to make up for lost time.

It briefly looked as though O’Brien would make a return to be involved in Ireland’s Grand Slam campaign, but having recovered from his hip issue, he then injured his shoulder on his return for Leinster a week before Ireland’s meeting with England in Twickenham.

2018 Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camp Launch O'Brien was launching the 2018 Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

“I probably would have backed myself if I’d played 50 minutes against Scarlets to be involved [against England] if I’d played any way well at all,” said O’Brien.

“But I knew after 90 seconds of that game that I was in trouble. That was that. I knew then that the following week wasn’t going to be realistic.

“So very frustrating, yeah, but you can only be delighted for the way [Ireland] went about their business. They were always in control.”

O’Brien says he watched the Grand Slam decider “in a local pub down beside my brother-in-law’s house with my best friend and about ten others,” where he shouted and roared like any other Irish person.

Though Joe Schmidt continually spoke of the possibility of reintegrating O’Brien if he could return from injury during the Six Nations, there was no contact between the two.

“No, I haven’t heard from Joe at all,” said O’Brien. “Once you’re out, you’re out.

“Every player knows that. The physios are in contact obviously and relaying stuff back to Joe but that’s the way it’s always been and that’s always been his style.

“You don’t pay much attention to it because when you’re fit, you know that you could potentially be involved and when you’re not, you know you’re out.

“The management has a massive job to do then that they are prepared as best as possible and that’s what they’ve done.

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Sean O'Brien with Henry Slade O'Brien could have a major role in Leinster's run-in this season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“That was an incredible campaign, the way they went about it. Hopefully, there’s better days ahead.”

Indeed, O’Brien is of the belief that he can play a major role for province and country in the coming months and years.

Still only 31, the Carlow man is keen to impress for Leinster in the run-in to their season, trophy success in the Pro14 and Champions Cup being realistic targets, and the June tour of Australia with Ireland is also on his mind.

“I think I need those games,” said O’Brien of the tour down under. “I need that level now again to get used to it again, to get my body battle-hardened again.

“That’s why I want a few games, I don’t want to play a game and have a week off or anything like that. I want as many minutes as I can get to get a bit of consistency and flow.”

If he can finally shake injury and make his return, O’Brien can show once again just how good a player he is.

“You miss the big days, those big days that you’ve worked so hard for and you want to be involved in,” said the openside flanker.

“When you miss the likes of a Grand Slam year like this year, it does hurt a little bit, but I always try to look at the positives. Probably a few years ago I didn’t look as much at the positives, but now I try to.

“So next year is a World Cup year and there’s a Six Nations to play, so there’s two massive opportunities to go and win two more trophies, hopefully.”

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