Seán O’Brien ready to lead the charge against Australia
Forwards coach Plumtree ranks flanker among the very best in the world
Ireland’s Sean O’Brien in action against Johnny Leota of Samoa. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Seán O’Brien may be on another branch of the rugby evolutionary tree from Will Genia. But the chances are the Ireland flanker and Australia scrumhalf will tangle. Predator and prey spring to mind and Genia will be the reluctant party.
For all of his ability, Genia was pressured at Twickenham two weeks ago with one box kick charged down by prop Mako Vunipola. The subsequent delivery to Chris Robshaw sparked England’s comeback.
The ploy of asking the Wallaby scrumhalf to perform within inches of the clawing hands of the Ireland pack is far from a new practice. But as the focus of much of Australia’s attack Genia may be susceptible to pressure.
Wallaby coach, Ewen McKenzie described the charge down as “disappointing” and rejected suggestions the players around had not done enough to protect his number nine. Tough love seems to be McKenzie’s style and the marauding O’Brien may consider making the sniping Genia even more of the focus of the coach’s attention.
While Ulster flanker Chris Henry is out for the series with a torn hamstring, Tommy Bowe and Johnny Sexton are on target to play following niggles. Shane Jennings and Luke Fitzgerald have been drafted in but the Leinster back is regarded as precautionary cover for Bowe, who is expected to be fit. Munster’s Keith Earls continues to recover from patella tendonitis.
Bowe’s calf was bruised on Saturday and Sexton has been nursing a hip but it was George Pisi’s dangerous tackle on the Ireland right wing that has officially landed him in trouble.
The Samoan has been cited after receiving a yellow card, although he was also seen to apologise before leaving the pitch. Leinster play his club Northampton in the Heineken Cup on December 7th in Franklin’s Gardens and any mid range suspension there could hurt.
But Joe Schmidt should be thankful his squad is largely intact with O’Brien leading the charge. Australia will have watched closely. Not a typical seven, but Ireland forwards coach, John Plumtree, places the Tullow openside flanker among the best.
“Seán’s right up there. I’ve worked with some good loosies in the past, in Wellington, South Africa, but Seán’s definitely right up there,” said Plumtree yesterday.
“I’ve enjoyed watching him and I’m sure he’s really looking forward to this weekend, going up against some good players. He’s always been a good player, you just get more accurate in what you do and a better understanding of what you do. And you get smarter as well.
“Seán knows the game and that’s what has impressed me. He’s also a very good jumper, which really surprised me because you look at his body make-up, he’s built like a brick but he’s actually quite explosive.