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Monday 24 September 2018

Sean's focus on Tests

O'Brien not bothered by talk of move to France as he prepares for Samoans

Sean O'Brien. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Sean O'Brien. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

SEAN O'BRIEN fends off media speculation about his possible move to France like he does Dan Biggar – with total authority.

"To be honest, I couldn't care less about it at the minute," he said.

"I don't have a time limit on it. I am concentrating on these three games, on these three weeks ahead of me. That is my priority. I certainly won't be letting it affect me in any way."

You better believe him. There are not many people that stand in O'Brien's way without feeling the full force of his presence.

When the Carlow man rolled his ankle at the Captain's Run before Leinster's Heineken Cup clash against French champions Castres Olympique, he played through it and found it flared up the morning after the game.

It came at a bad time for the form player not just in Ireland, but, arguably, the most outstanding talent in Europe to that point this season.

"I was very happy. I was tipping along nicely at the time. I suppose I would rather have been playing up until now but I probably only missed one game and hopefully I will make up for that this weekend."

O'Brien has moved further away from his multi-purpose reputation as a man who can play all three acts of the back row equally well.

He is now Leinster and Ireland's openside, a terror on the ball, a scavenger without it, an all-round exponent, a link man, the very definition of 'impact'.

His accuracy and strength over the ball have been exemplary. He has turned a work in progress into one of his finest attributes. That takes dedication.

"I wouldn't say I have zeroed in on it recently, but it is something that I want to get more into my game because the breakdown is such a big area over the last couple of years.

"It is probably going to be the main area in any game, especially at international level where everything is so competitive."

 

Eagerness

In the past, O'Brien's eagerness to get in on the ball was short circuited by his judgment of whether it was too late to enter the contest.

"I suppose I said to myself at the start of the year to make nice clear decisions as quick as I can," he said.

"Last year, at times, I think I was wasting myself a bit at rucks that I probably wasn't going to get to ball.

"So I am trying to make better decisions and just keep playing the way I am playing."

This is where homework comes into focus for sevens. Referees hold different interpretations. They tend to be swayed by one or two hot topics.

"You have to paint them good pictures," said the 'Tullow Tank'.

"They go with what they see and if you are in a good body position or you are in there nice and fast, it probably gives them an easier decision."

O'Brien sees the Joe Schmidt of Ireland as "not a million miles away" from the Joe Schmidt of Leinster, pushing clarity and detail at all times.

"We want to play a real fast game and keep things as simple as possible as well, not to complicate it too much. That's the great thing about last week's prep.

 

Execute

"This week everyone is clearer about what they want to do. We just have to go out and execute now and make sure our own jobs are looked after and that what he asks of us is done."

It is easy to see that Samoa will bring a host of big-hitting islanders to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday where muscle-on-muscle mass collisions will be the order of the day.

"They're a massively physical team. They have some big boys throughout the whole team. I think some of their backs are as big as their forwards.

"I think leading into this week, whatever team goes out there will have to stick to the game plan and that will go a long way to putting in a good performance.

"Hopefully, if the performance is good enough, the win should be there."

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