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Seán O’Brien signs for AIL club Naas after being denied Tullow return

The 35-year-old wasn’t allowed to play junior rugby so soon after retirement from the pro game.

O'Brien will play in the AIL with Naas.
O'Brien will play in the AIL with Naas.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

FORMER IRELAND, LEINSTER, and Lions back row Seán O’Brien has signed for All-Ireland League Division 1B club Naas.

O’Brien retired from professional rugby at the end of last season with London Irish and has since moved back to Ireland to take up a role as Leinster’s contact skills coach.

The 35-year-old had hoped to join home club Tullow and play junior rugby, but was denied that chance when his application to feature in the Towns Cup and Leinster League was rejected by Leinster Rugby’s domestic committee.

The committee pointed to a Leinster Rugby regulation that states players who have been professionals within the preceding two seasons cannot go straight into junior club rugby.

“All players who have played international (including 7’s), provincial, or professional rugby in any jurisdiction for the Senior full team, in the current or last 2 preceding seasons shall be ineligible to participate in any Competitions,” reads the regulation.

The regulations do not prevent O’Brien or any other recently-retired ex-pro from going straight back into AIL rugby and so, the Tullow Tank has now signed for Naas.

As well as playing for Leinster 126 times, O’Brien won 56 Ireland caps and would have made plenty more appearances in the green jersey but for injuries. He toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2013 and 2017, featuring in five Tests.

O’Brien left Leinster for London Irish in 2019 and spent three seasons with the Premiership club before calling time on his playing career. 

He has earned positive reports from within Leinster about his contact skills coaching since re-joining the province during the summer.

And O’Brien will continue to play amateur rugby with Naas, who were beaten by Old Wesley in the opening game of their AIL season last weekend. Former Connacht out-half Craig Ronaldson is now a player/coach with the club and there will be huge excitement about the addition of O’Brien.

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Ex-Munster man Johne Murphy is the club’s head coach and welcomed the new signing.

“We had a very successful season last year and as we start off the season having a player of Seán’s calibre will develop our players,” said Murphy.

“They will learn a lot from the experience that Seán brings from his playing career. The whole Club from grass roots upwards including all our players from minis upwards, all our coaches right across all age groups and also the amazing supporters that we have in Naas – he will bring plenty of enjoyment to everyone in our amazing Club. We are all looking forward to having him on our team.” 

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