'Scary' O'Brien is in form of his life

Des Berry

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has described his tearaway back-row forward Sean O'Brien as one of those "guys I would be scared of on the street".

The man from Tullow is what Antipodeans like to call a 'freak' of the game. He is right at the apex of his powers and almost impossible to stop at home and abroad for his club.

"Seanie is just that dynamic and abrasive; he gives opposition defences a really hard time. It is often not a one-man tackle that brings him down. They've got to commit two.

"If he gets a metre or two forward, he is a little bit of a handful for them, which has been great for us," admitted Schmidt, ahead of the visit of Connacht to the RDS in the Magners League on Saturday evening.

The best remedy for Schmidt being home alone for Christmas -- his family flew south to New Zealand for the festive period -- was to see Leinster carve up Ulster like a succulent turkey on Monday.

"It was a great lift. We talked about before the game how they would be six points ahead of us if they'd won it. We needed the result and it was great to get it," he said.

In terms of personnel, the "high-mileage" Ireland internationals, including Brian O'Driscoll, will not be free to take part against Connacht in their provincial duty. Scrum-half Eoin Reddan could be available. Sean O'Brien, Devin Toner and Isaac Boss will be.

Leinster players making all the right moves in advance of the Six Nations -- Leo Cullen, Mike Ross and O'Brien spring to mind -- are all part of the extended national team training camp.

Centre Eoin O'Malley possibly could have played against Ulster, but O'Driscoll was available. It made sense to give O'Malley the extra time to be fresh for what is likely to be a first team start against Connacht.

Flanker Kevin McLaughlin could play a part, probably from the bench, after a seven-month injury lay-off. Hooker Richardt Strauss and lock Nathan Hines are back from a well-deserved rest.

The Kiwi coach has the utmost regard for Eric Elwood's Connacht, the so-called development province, as they struggle to absorb the confirmed loss of three of their best players in Sean Cronin, Fionn Carr and Ian Keatley at the end of this season.

"They are incredibly competitive. How many times do they get hammered?" asked Schmidt.

Not once this season. They have been comfortably beaten by Harlequins (20-9) in the Amlin Cup and Cardiff Blues (22-6) and Leinster (18-6) in the Magners League.

"I don't know how many times this year they've had a losing bonus point," conceded Schmidt.


In fact, they have collected five points in this manner out of seven defeats which points to a team good enough to compete without having the requirements to win.

This is a trend that should continue on Saturday as, arguably, the hottest club in Europe aim to fire up The RDS before what is looking like close to a full house.