Seán O’Brien to line out for Naas after being denied Tullow reunion

Leinster coach has to play at AIL level due to having not spent long enough out of pro rugby

Leinster contact skills coach Seán O’Brien will return to club rugby with Naas RFC in the AIL. First reported by KFM Radio on Thursday, the club has confirmed the news to The Irish Times.

The former Ireland international and British and Irish Lion had initially wanted to play for hometown club Tullow RFC after returning to the country following his stint with London Irish, but Leinster branch rules put an end to that reunion since O’Brien has not spent long enough out of the professional game.

Regulation 5.7 on player eligibility states that: “All players who have played international (including Sevens), provincial, or professional rugby in any jurisdiction for the senior full team, in the current or last two preceding seasons, shall be ineligible to participate in any competition.”

At a hearing last month, Tullow were told that since O’Brien had not spent two years away from a professional set-up, he could only play at AIL level, not junior rugby. Playing in Division 1B of the Leinster league, Tullow are regarded as a junior side.

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By contrast, Naas play in Division 1B of the All-Ireland League.

O’Brien only retired at the end of last season, meaning he must wait until the end of the 2023/24 season before he can play again for the club of his youth.

He left Leinster in 2019, spending the next three seasons with London Irish. He won four European titles with the province and was named 2011 European Player of the year. The Carlow native also earned 56 caps for Ireland and toured twice with the Lions in 2013 and 2017.

Naas are currently bottom of Division 1B after losing their opening game away to Old Wesley.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist