Wednesday 20 February 2019

Eager for change

O'Brien is chomping at the bit

O’Brien training with
Leinster this week
Pics: Sportsfile
ON ROAD BACK: Seán O’Brien training with Leinster this week Pics: Sportsfile

Jamie Heaslip and Seán O'Brien . . .where you saw one, there usually was the other for the guts of a decade, soldiering together for Leinster, Ireland and the British & Irish Lions in 2013.

When the 34-year-old former number eight, Heaslip, took his bow at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday, it was to a deafening roar from an appreciative audience.

All the while, the 31-year-old flanker, O'Brien, was sat in his seat with a shoulder problem that stung long enough for him to pull the plug for Saracens.

What was going through O'Brien's head as the man who was never injured left the stage before the man who has always been troubled by his hips, knees, shoulders, something?

"The only thing I said to myself was 'it could always be worse', you know?" he said. "At least, I'm still getting back from these things and I don't have something that is career ending or putting me in jeopardy of my career being ended.

"They're all fixable things - touch wood - so far," he added.

"We're in a lucky place to be in the situation we're in, some of us.


"That's why, when we have opportunities to win trophies and be a part of something special you don't want to miss out."

But, O'Brien did miss out on Saracens, just like he missed out on the Grand Slam.

"You miss the big days, those big days that you've worked so hard for and you want to be involved in.

"When you miss the likes of a Grand Slam year, like this year, it does hurt.

"Probably a few years ago I didn't look at much positives, but now I try to.

"Next year is a World Cup year and there's a Six Nations to play, so there's two massive opportunities to go and win two more trophies, hopefully."

But, there is enough road left in the season to have O'Brien on his toes and ready to let Dan Leavy know the Lions test openside from last summer is far from finished.

There are the remaining three rounds of the PRO14 regular season programme and the play-offs as well as the Champions Cup semi-final against Scarlets 16 days.

For this, the Carlow man admitted the need to play against Benetton Treviso on Saturday week to put him in the picture for Europe.

Don't forget, there is also the tantalising prospect of a three-test series against Australia in June.

There is a theory out there that coach Joe Schmidt should take a carefully, carefully approach with some of the veterans.

For those who think O'Brien is one of those who could do with an extended period of rest and recuperation, they can think again.

"No, I think I need those games," he said, emphatically.

"I need that level now again to get my body battle-hardened again.

"I don't want to play a game and have a week off or anything like that.

"I want as much minutes as I can get to get a bit of consistency and flow."

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