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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 19 December, 2018
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'These two weeks will define our season': O'Brien ready to empty the tank again

After the frustration of being kept away from the Wallabies, the Tullow Tank is revved up and ready to go again.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE LAST TIME Sean O‘Brien faced the media he was pumped and ready to go take on Australia after putting in a Trojan 80-minute effort against New Zealand.

In the hours after speaking about the improvements he could yet build on top of an already impressive performance, the Tullow Tank was derailed by a minor hip flexor issue.

The number seven jersey to counter-act David Pocock and Michael Hooper was instead presented to the ever-ready Josh van der Flier. Today, the Wicklow man takes the openside shirt again as the Leinster team bus departs for Northampton with O’Brien unleashed on the blindside.

“Yeah, I was close, but I wasn’t close enough,” O’Brien says with a laugh about his late withdrawal from Ireland’s starting line-up last month.

“It was just one of those things – I couldn’t run at full tilt with the niggle I had, so once I had the scan I knew I was out. It’s just the way it goes. I probably had emptied the tank the week before, so I was playing catch-up recovery-wise all that week.

“It was only a small thing, just kept me out for a few days.”

Beauden Barrett with Sean O’Brien and Garry Ringrose Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He adds: “It was frustrating, but I got straight back in here (UCD) and started rehab and looking forward to this week. It’s good to be back involved.”

Far from feeling disadvantaged by the loss of game time after such a long spell out, O’Brien says he’s ‘well used’ to going in to massive matches from a cold start, having impressed briefly on his comeback away to Montpellier and then excelling against New Zealand in his first 80-minute outing since January.

This time last year, Leinster approached the December back-to-backs with two European defeats under their belt and Toulon to come. Even with Jonathan Sexton out of the picture as he rehabs his hamstring issues, Leinster look in much better shape at this pivotal point in the season.

“I think we’ve improved,” says the Carlow back row.

“A lot of the younger guys have come on an awful lot and I think we’re in a better place this time of year. These two weeks are massive and they’ll define where we’re going for the rest of the year.”

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Sean Farrell

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