'I didn't feel too off the pace': Another game and Sean O'Brien will be ready for November

After 80 minutes over two weekends, the Tullow Tank is almost ready to roll again.

O'Brien stretching at UCD today.
O'Brien stretching at UCD today.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

LEINSTER AND IRELAND flanker Sean O’Brien says he is “feeling great” after playing two halves of rugby at very different levels on back-to-back weekends.

After eight months sidelined with a hamstring injury, the Tullow Tank made his comeback in a Leinster A fixture in Richmond before getting 40 more minutes under his belt in Sunday’s Champions Cup loss to Montpellier.

While many of his front-line international peers are likely to miss out on this weekend’s inter-pros, Pro12 champions Connacht are next up for O’Brien.

“Yeah it felt good to be back,” O’Brien said before heading in to Leinster’s afternoon team meeting in UCD today.

“Delighted to get the start and more minutes under the belt. I’m looking forward to a few more minutes this weekend. That’s what it’s about for me at the minute.

“Recovered well the last few days, trained already this morning so I’m feeling great now and looking forward to the week ahead.”

Hopefully I’ll get through this weekend now, get a bit of form and put my hand up.”

Despite tough, swampy conditions in the south of France, O’Brien acquitted himself well for a man back at the top level of his sport for the first time in eight months. He may not have got a chance to carry a great deal of ball, but at the breakdown he made his presence felt and won some important turnovers.

“I didn’t feel too off the pace. I was a bit rusty in some technical aspects, but other than that… I felt I improved a lot from the week before in the B & I Cup.

“That’s what I always say: two or three games and you’re back pretty sharp again. That’s hopefully what I’ll get this weekend.

He added: “I went a bit high in one tackle and a bit high around the breakdown as well a few times. When you’re high (in a ruck) and you’re getting smashed, you don’t be long about getting low, so I kind of grew into it and I felt good at the end of it.”

Sean O'Brien Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

In the tunnel of the Altrad Stadium on Sunday, head coach Leo Cullen said both O’Brien and Johnny Sexton were ‘pissed off’ to be withdrawn at half-time of such a big European game. It’s nothing new for a sportsperson in any code to be annoyed when they’re withdrawn before the job is done. But two days later, O’Brien can see the reason in the decision.

“I think if you ask any player when they’re taken off, they’re always going to be pissed off. It’s a natural reaction, I think.

“But you just suck it up and you realise that there’s a bigger picture to look at here and you don’t be selfish about it. The lads that are there on the bench are well able to do a job and even better at times. That’s just the way it is.

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“You have to be smart about it as well. The coach made a decision to take me off at half-time, and I wanted to stay on for another bit. But look at that level, not having played for nine months, it’s about getting back into it, getting more minutes under the belt and moving forward to just get that bit of sharpness back.

If I was out there trucking around and not doing much for the next 10 minutes I wouldn’t be adding much value to the team. While you never want to come off, it’s probably the right thing to do in this situation.

“Your adrenaline is going and you want to add to the team, you want to try and win the game. That’s just the way it is, that’s the competitive nature we all have in us.”

If O’Brien can come through another 60 minutes or so unscathed from a high-intensity clash with Connacht this weekend, don’t be surprised to see him get that adrenaline pumping in Soldier Field on 5 November.

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Sean Farrell

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