O'Brien: I'll fight for spot in Connacht back-row
Promising back-row Sean O'Brien is determined to force his way into Connacht's starting line-up as they bid to reach the Champions Cup off their own bat for the first time.
A top six finish in the Pro12 will secure a place in Europe's premier competition, and Pat Lam's men can take a big step towards that target when they host leaders Scarlets tomorrow.
The return of Jake Heenan and Eoin McKeon means there is massive competition in the back-row and O'Brien (21) knows he will need to put his best foot forward just to get a place in the match-day 23.
The former Ireland U-19 and U-20 captain recently signed a new contract with the province, and has made 10 appearances in his debut season, but still awaits his first start in the league.
"There's a lot of pressure at the moment coming towards the back-row, with the lads coming back from injury. It's nervous times for me to see whether I am still up in the standings or not, but we'll see at the weekend," he said.
Victory is paramount this weekend if fourth-placed Connacht want to remain in contention at the top of league. Their last outing was a last-gasp 21-19 defeat away to Scarlets and they must bounce back quickly, with Munster and Ulster within three points behind them.
"It's massively important that we get the win," said O'Brien. "We dropped the standards a little bit, that we set at the beginning of the year, with those runs of losses. And we need to get back to winning ways.
"Scarlets are very ball-tough. As a back-row, that is a challenge that I relish. I need to get there early, and be competitive in that area.
"And for everyone we just have to work on our basics and work on our breakdown, and make sure we have it right on the weekend."