Seán O’Brien hopes to continue Ireland career after Exiles move
Players who ply their trade outside of Ireland aren’t normally considered for selection
Sean O’Brien: “That’s all up in the air but afterwards, I’d hope to be still in the mix if possible and fit.”
Seán O’Brien admitted that he “shed a few tears” when he made the decision to leave Leinster and take up a three-year contract offer from London Irish that will come into effect after this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. The 32-year-old flanker won’t be calling time on his Ireland career, even after he moves abroad.
Speaking about it for the first time he explained: “There have been a few tears shed over the last few months thinking about all of this. When you do make your final decision, it’s a tough place, at the end of it all you’re just packing your bags, walking out the door and moving to a different club. It hasn’t been that easy but it is what it is. You back yourself to go over there and do a job.”
He said of his post Japan international career prospects: “I suppose until the World Cup finishes, that’s all up in the air but afterwards, I’d hope to be still in the mix if possible and fit. I haven’t really thought that far ahead yet. I know that because I’m contracted to the World Cup, it is what it is at the minute but you never know what will happen after that.
“No, I haven’t spoken to Faz (Andy Farrell) about it. It’s too far away to think about really, you know what I mean? I’m only back in a couple of weeks in here. It’s not a priority for me at the minute. Something I want to focus on is getting back playing well here and staying fit. I’ll think about that stuff in November/December.”
O’Brien hopes to buck the IRFU’s unwritten general rule - there have been exceptions in the past - that players who ply their trade outside of Ireland won’t be considered for the national side. He certainly isn’t conceding that this will be his last Six Nations. “No, I haven’t (thought about this being my last Six Nations) actually because if I’m fit and well and I think I can add value to this group, even after I leave Leinster, I’d hope to be selected (for Ireland).
“But again that’s so long away and it’s probably a decision that the coaches and whoever is in charge at the time will have to make. But there’s always hope there, I think, that regardless of where you are, you’re still in with a shout if you’re playing well enough.”
Former Ireland coach and current director of rugby Declan Kidney gave Sean O’Brien his Ireland debut against Fiji in the RDS in 2009 and their personal relationship was a significant factor in persuading him to join a club that should re-join the English Premiership after spending a year in the Championship following relegation at the end of last season.
He said that he had several offers but the decision, once a national contract wasn’t on the table, was relatively straightforward. “I started looking at other options and there was a few other clubs in the mix as well.
“But, I suppose, just speaking to Deccie and what they wanted me to do over there, what they want to try to achieve, I thought it was a really good fit. Someone who knows me as well inside out and knows what I can bring to them. Yeah, it just made sense for me.
“I’m very happy with the decision now at this stage. I’m glad it’s kind of done and dusted so I can concentrate on my rugby now and over the next few months. It’s been good really, it’s been received pretty well and I’m happy with what I’ve decided to do, so, that’s where we are.”