Seán O’Brien ready to unleash his trademark bash and carry on Samoans

Europe’s most destructive flanker always looking to improve his own game and those around him

A nine-minute interview with Seán O’Brien is nothing more than a tease. A hastily-scribbled rough draft of what he really has to say.

It's enough for other players in national camp but not the form player in Ireland. Not Europe's most destructive flanker and maybe even the most influential player in world rugby. Though Kieran Read will contest that suggestion on November 24th.

Only the All Blacks vice captain has matched O’Brien for power, ferocity and skill, pretty much since the tail end of the Lions tour, when the 26-year-old eventually bludgeoned his way into Warren Gatland’s backrow.

His explosiveness was evident on his return for Leinster, especially in Swansea, and boded well, as French vultures began to circle, until he rolled his ankle the day before the Castres game last month.


Of course he strapped it and ploughed on.

“It was a bit stiff that morning but I played away. On Sunday it flared up a little bit.

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

Meaty Samoans
O'Brien and the meaty Samoans careering into each other like crash test dummies is alone worth a wander down to Lansdowne Road.

But nine minutes quizzing the Tullow hulk in Carton’s Duke room yesterday was never going to be enough.

So, we’ll tell you a story about him.

It's no secret that O'Brien has been coaching his beloved midlands club since his teenage years. Besides his on-field presence another significant loss to Leinster next season, should he decamp to France, would be the largely unseen work he and others do around the province.

Take last season when O’Brien landed onto Donnybrook’s back pitch one winter’s night to take a Bective Rangers training session.

Not the firsts or seconds or even the thirds.

His advice on the breakdown was implanted in these weekend warriors and retold in the pub. He told them that all the referee has time to compute in the tackle zone is a snapshot. ‘So give him your best pose; arse in the air, feet planted, no obvious leaning and hands near the ball’.

“Last year at times I think I was wasting myself a bit at rucks that I probably wasn’t going to get to ball in so I am trying to make better decisions and keep playing the way I am playing.

"You have to paint a good picture. Referees, obviously, go with what they see. If you are in a good body position or in there nice and fast it gives them an easier decision."

Added bonus
The joy this Saturday would be to see Leinster of the past three years in green jerseys (with the added bonus of Tommy Bowe, Peter O'Mahony, Paul O'Connell, Conor Murray and the usual Schmidt surprise.

“I’m not sure if it is exactly like what we had at Leinster with Joe but it won’t be a million miles away from it. We want to play a real fast game and keep things as simple as possible.

“That’s the great thing about last week’s prep. 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.”

That is the Schmidt doctrine in its simplest form.

“Joe has been on our case every day about clarity and knowing your role and not making any mistakes. He is a perfectionist that way and it is good to have someone there who is making sure your standards are as high as possible.

“He is such a good man manager as well so you react to him. He doesn’t just bollock you out of it, he wants to correct you and make you better.”

Just like O’Brien did with those Bective forwards who went on to win their league.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent