O'Brien eager to fill Leinster void left by inspirational O'Driscoll
SEAN O'BRIEN is ready to step up and fill the leadership void that Brian O'Driscoll's injury-enforced absence has left in the Leinster team.
The Tullow tyro's profile keeps on rising -- he is surely the only Irish rugby star to have graced 'Ear to the Ground' and the front cover of 'Ireland's Own'.
His team-mates might be ribbing him about his farming background -- the flanker revealed he used his first contract to buy a tractor -- but as soon as the 24-year-old takes the ball into contact he inspires his Leinster colleagues to follow.
As province and country get ready for a dry run for life after BOD, O'Brien is preparing to step up and take on more responsibility starting tomorrow against Montpellier.
"It is a role I like," he said. "Brian is a big loss there, but it gives the younger lads a chance to step up to the mark. The likes of Fergus (McFadden) and Eoin O'Malley, they are both good at talking as well.
"We have enough experienced players there on the field, we've Leo (Cullen) there as well. He (Brian) will be there anyway, he'll be off the field, he'll be chipping in with his say as well.
"It is not as if he has gone away for good or anything."
The moment it became clear that Ireland were going to have a tough day against Wales in Wellington came when O'Brien was cut down before he got going in his first charge.
He dusted himself down and went again, with the same result. After barnstorming his way through the group stages, it was apparent that the Welsh had targeted Ireland's No 7 as the man to stop.
As European Player of the Year, he will receive plenty of attention from defences in the Heineken Cup.
O'Brien knows that he will need to add some strands to his game, to innovate, in order to counter the attention. "I'm going to have to deal with it," he said. "It's up to us to work on different aspects of our game to throw something different at defences and not be too predictable.
"(Schalk) Burger this year was passing the ball a lot for South Africa and I don't think he ever passed the ball before. It could just be a little thing like that."