'He isn't here to stare down and intimidate people'- Sean O'Brien on Paul O'Connell's absence
Sean O’Brien has acquired a reputation as one of the most physically imposing forwards in world rugby, but even he could be spooked by a nasty look from the erstwhile Ireland captain Paul O’Connell.
As Ireland approach their first Six Nations of the post O’Connell era, just how exactly they will fair without the totemic lock is justifiably a source of much conjecture.
In Rory Best, a capable and respected skipper has been drafted in to succeed the former Lions captain but his presence, or the absence of in the Ireland camp, has surely created a tangibly different dynamic.
“It’s kind of good,” O’Brien quipped today at Carton House. “He doesn’t stare at people anymore and intimidate us as much.”
Following a brief chuckle, O’Brien continued by saying that O’Connell’s retirement has unquestionably been a major loss, but that time waits for no man, and the current Irish vintage must forge ahead.
“It’s obviously different not having Paulie around, with the type of player he is. You move on very quickly and it’s up to other lads to fill that void, and stand up and be counted.”
Speaking of abrasive Munster captains, as one of five uncapped players in the group, the subject of how CJ Stander is acclimatising to the Irish set up was also broached with O’Brien, given he knows a thing or two about combative back row play.
The Carlow native claimed that all the new boys have proven welcome additions thus far and that Stander has been a willing student on the training paddock.
“We’ve got to know a lot of the new faces on a kind of personal level,” O’Brien said.
“It’s good that they’ve fitted right in and they’re working very hard and done very well this year. He’s (Stander) fitted in very well, listened and asked a lot of questions. It’s good to have him in the squad because he’s been playing very well.”
So, has there been any stand offs between the pair during an over-zealous session?
“No. I don’t want to either. He’s a bit of everything to his game; he’s a very skilful player and one of the leaders down in Munster now and it’s the same here. He’s talking and communicating on the field here. He’s not too shy and it’s nice to have a fresh voice around the place too.”