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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 18 May 2021

Pressure off, O'Brien feels Leinster can 'go out and just play' this weekend

Carlow’s finest back row highlighted the excellent work IRUPA are doing for players in Ireland.

IT’S AN ODD week for Sean O’Brien and his Leinster teammates.

Usually at this stage of the season, they’re preparing themselves for a crucial Pro12 clash in the rush for home play-off places. But after a season that has been highly disappointing, this weekend’s tie with Edinburgh is something of a damp squib.

Sean O'Brien O'Brien missed a large part of the season after shoulder surgery. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Matt O’Connor’s men want to ensure that they don’t drop down to sixth in the final table of course, though the rush of excitement that being in contention at the top brings will be sorely missed.

Come Saturday evening, Leinster’s players are done for the 2014/15 season. O’Brien’s campaign has been a strange one, starting in September before a long-term shoulder injury ruled him out for months.

Having returned during the Six Nations, the Tullow man has played only nine times in the entire season. That said, he’s looking forward to his month-long holidays as much as anyone else.

“Jesus, I don’t feel that fresh!” said O’Brien when we put it to him that he might prefer another couple of matches before the summer.

I’m at the stage now where we’ve had a couple of tough games now in the last few weeks and it’s probably at the stage where we’re looking forward to a rest now as well.

“Thankfully we’re in Europe for next year and it eases the pressure a bit, we can go out and just play.”

Leinster fans will certainly looking for O’Connor’s side to do exactly that, unleashing the shackles to a degree, blooding a handful of youngsters and providing a smidgeon more entertainment than has been the case for much of the season.

Edinburgh are still vying for Champions Cup qualification themselves, however, so it’s hardly set to be an exhibition-style game.

Driving much of the Scottish side’s strong form this season has been an abrasive, intelligent back row including the likes of Cornell du Preez, Mike Coman and Hamish Watson. O’Brien identifies that area as a key threat to Leinster’s prospects of ending their campaign on a winning note.

Sean O'Brien and Matt O'Connor O'Brien and O'Connor hope to end the season on a winning note. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We have to keep an eye on them, they compete very hard in that area,” said O’Brien. “They’re a very physical team as well and they come after you. It’s a hugely dangerous back row, they lead the pack around the place with their impact tackles, chokes and all of that.

“They look to cause a bit of upset, so it’s the same as with any other team. They do tend to go a little harder at the ball than some.”

O’Brien didn’t pick up any individual honours at last night’s IRUPA awards in Dublin, but he was on stage to accept a gong on Ireland’s behalf, as the Six Nations win in March was voted as the Rugby Moment of the Year.

The Carlow man didn’t shy away from underlining his belief that Ireland can win the tournament, though you suspect Joe Schmidt might have preferred a less forthright answer to host Kyran Bracken’s question on the matter.

Beforehand, O’Brien – one of many of the Ireland squad in attendance – had pointed out the fine work IRUPA are doing for professional rugby players.

I suppose from the college point of view and looking at things after rugby, they’re very good at that,” said O’Brien.

“That’s mainly what I’ve been dealing with IRUPA about at the minute. I’ve done a few gigs for them before and I know they’ve had an effect on certain players, past players, and the way they look after people that need looking after.

“It’s a brilliant organisation and it’s going from strength to strength.”

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Murray Kinsella

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