'You cannot tell Sean O'Brien to rein it in' - Sexton's praise for Irish team-mate
Johnny Sexton reckons the Lions are getting the best out of a fit and firing Sean O'Brien.
The Tullow native escaped sanction last weekend when a disciplinary committee agreed with his assertion that he had not deliberately made contact with Waisake Naholo's head in the second-half of the Lions' win over New Zealand in Wellington and the decision is a major boost to the tourists' prospects of a second series win over the All Blacks.
While Maro Itoje has hogged the headlines, the Ireland flanker has been arguably the tourists' best player on tour; scoring a memorable try and acting as a key leader.
Last week, he was prominent in both defence and attack and he will be key to the team's prospects at Eden Park tomorrow.
Sexton says the decision not to hand him a ban was correct and gave the squad a lift.
"It's brilliant to have him, he's been playing really well. It was a relief to everyone in the squad when he got cleared," he said of his Leinster colleague.
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"Obviously, we knew that there was nothing in it really. It was just unfortunate that it resulted in an injury but these things can happen and we're delighted to have him for Saturday.
"He's been really good so far. We've seen that when Seanie is fit and he's had a string of games, this is what he produces.
"He's had a few injuries over the years but when you play like he does, you're going to pick up a few injuries because he puts everything on the line when he plays.
That's what makes him the player he is, so you can't say to him 'rein it back a bit' because then you don't have the real Sean O'Brien. It's just once he gets fit and gets those string of games together, it's the same with every player. All you need is a run of games to find your best form. We're seeing the best of him now."
Certainly, the flanker has earned the respect of his less familiar team-mates and opponents who routinely refer to him as one of the world's best in his position.
Sam Cane has come up against him in the last two weeks and is fully aware of what O'Brien can do.
"Sean's a very impressive player, that's for sure," the Chiefs openside said. "We had a good chat after the game on Saturday. He's an awesome bloke.
"The way he goes about his work is very impressive, he's been massive for them this tour."