Tuesday 6 December 2016

Sean O'Brien is fit and ready to take on the All Blacks

Published 29/10/2016 | 20:13

Cian Kelleher of Connacht is tackled by Sean O'Brien, left, and Joey Carbery of Leinster
Cian Kelleher of Connacht is tackled by Sean O'Brien, left, and Joey Carbery of Leinster

Leinster coach Leo Cullen watched his side gain some measure of revenge for last May’s Pro12 final defeat to Connacht and backed Sean O’Brien’s latest comeback attempt as he targets a start for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side against New Zealand in Chicago.

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“It was an important win and it keeps our momentum going in the league. It is a challenge missing players and it was a short turnaround from Montpellier.

“Sean is making steady progress, he had a couple of 40 minutes in recent weeks and it will be up to the national management what they want to do with him.

“The crowd were amazing as well and the players fed off that. Defending has been a big focus for us. We were trying to score from our defence in a way, it wasn’t perfect by any means.

“We turned the ball over cheaply early on when we were getting into good position and they have pace off turnover and we held them out just on half-time and had our noses in front at the break.

“Then the pressure built up and we managed to get a couple of tries in the second-half. It’s a great window because we are pushing deep into our Academy group and it’s great to see them up close, we enjoy it as coaches.

Barry Daly of Leinster is tackled by Bundee Aki of Connacht
Barry Daly of Leinster is tackled by Bundee Aki of Connacht

“We expected that disjointed nature but the effort and endeavour was pleasing. We’ll miss a few now and wish them well as they head off for Ireland but we will now prepare for Zebre.”

Connacht coach Pat Lam rued his side’s inability to build upon an early 6-0 lead as they went more than an hour without scoring against an impressively suffocating Leinster defence.

“Leinster were the better side,” said Lam as his side’s winless streak in the RDS extended to 12 years.

“We wanted to bring our game and we started well but turned the ball over, there was a phenomenal amount and that affects our flow and was disappointing.

“We were 6-0 up and were accurate at the breakdown but they put pressure on there and started to win penalties there and every time we tried to put pressure on we would make a mistake.

“Even at 17-6, I told them we could score two tries but the clock wound down and credit to Leinster, they deserved it.

“The passing and handling let us down, I showed them the execution at half-time and we are gutted that we weren’t at our normal high standards and we didn’t have shape and that’s when we look pretty average.

“They finished with experienced guys who have played a lot of big-time rugby. At 6-0, we could have scored a couple of tries but we didn’t and we needed to avoid getting involved in a game that became bogged down.”

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