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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Sean O'Brien speaking to reporters yesterday at Celtic Manor.
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'We got a rude awakening on the physicality side of things' - Sean O'Brien
The Ireland flanker is ready for Sunday’s clash with France — “a far more dangerous side”.

Rory Keane reports from Celtic Manor

ALL ROADS LEAD to Cardiff this weekend and Sean O’Brien is under no illusions about the physical onslaught awaiting Ireland at the Millennium Stadium.

Sergio Parisse and Simone Favaro provided a glimpse of the power and pace that France will bring to the table during Sunday’s eagerly-anticipated clash.

Parisse swathing aside Mike Ross and Favaro smashing O’Brien on the gainline were stand-out moments from the fired-up Italians at the Olympic Stadium last weekend.

The intensity will ratchet up another few levels with Les Bleus bringing a side stacked with powerful customers across the starting line-up, with some hefty replacements to boot. If Ireland were a little flat last Sunday, the challenge of Thierry Dusautoir and his cohorts is sure to focus Irish minds.

“It is going to be mentally a different challenge,” said the Leinster flanker. “We got a rude awakening on the physicality side of things [against Italy] and it’s going to be another step-up this week. You have to get your head around that. They’re a far more dangerous side as well. We’re going to have to be on our game this week and we know what we have to do.”

The atmosphere among the Irish squad was noticeably subdued following their tense 16-9 win last time out. It wasn’t the performance that O’Brien and his team-mates were looking to deliver, but he insists it is time to move on and focus on the job at hand.

“I think players know at this stage themselves,” said O’Brien. “They were a little bit disappointed but I don’t think there was any type of attitude or feeling. I think lads knew that they were all fixable mistakes and we just park and move on, and look forward to this week. There’s no point in moping around or getting downbeat about it. There’s a job to do this week and that’s the most important thing.”

IrelandÕs  Sean O'Brien Billy Stickland / INPHO Sean O'Brien in action against Italy on Sunday. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Sunday’s slugfest in Stratford will certainly have eliminated any sense of complacency among the Irish ranks. It wasn’t pretty but Ireland got the job done in the end.

O’Brien: “That’s probably one of the positives. We controlled the game in the last 15-20 minutes and closed it out and did what we had to do. Sometimes when you’re in a hole like that, it’s hard to get a grip on things but we controlled it in a good manner and that’s the pleasing aspect of it. We were able to do that in the last 10-15.”

If Joe Schmidt’s side are to emerge victorious this weekend, they will need O’Brien at his destructive best — with and without the ball. The Tullow man feels his game is progressively improving with each outing. Against a backrow of Dusautoir, Damien Chouly and the monstrous Louis Picamoles, he will need to reach his optimum.

“I was happier last week,” O’Brien added. “I’ve got my hands on a bit more ball and I’ve been busy enough while I was on the field. Probably, I need a bit more fluidity into my game and hopefully that will come with another 60 under my belt last week.”

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