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O'Brien ready to rise for Blues

THE greatest mistake anyone can make about Sean O'Brien is to believe the 'brick wall' hype about a player who has always been a footballer.

It was only last year that Clermont-Auvergne tried to exploit the general consensus about the Carlow man, that he was an explosive, straight runner without the subtle skills of a footballer. A typical blindside. They were wrong.

The French club launched their restarts in his general direction. What their superficial oval ball research did not reveal was that O'Brien was always a natural footballer for his GAA club The Fighting Cocks.

"Yeah, they won't have a clue," joked O'Brien, ahead of Leinster's Heineken Cup tussle with a muscle-bound Montpellier tomorrow.

While the French are synonymous with equal parts self-importance and self-belief, Montpellier coach Fabien Galthie is a real student of European rugby. He will know all about O'Brien, the current European Player of the Year.

Galthie will also have noted how Wales closed down O'Brien in the World Cup quarter-final by chopping away his lower legs in the tackle.

This would seem the way to minimise the Irishman's influence on the game and Montpellier captain Fulgence Ouedraogo, a flexible athlete, looks the most likely man for the job.

"To be honest, I haven't really been changing a whole lot. I just need to understand how to adapt to certain things happening around me in different games," stated O'Brien.

"That is a matter of saying -- 'right' -- I have to get away from the contact area, use my feet a little bit more, try to be more evasive. But, I don't think I have to change my game too much."

The facts of this profession mean O'Brien is now a marked man. Teams make special plans to prevent him from getting over the gain line.

There is no more thrilling a sight in the game than to see the Tullow Tank crash through the brick wall defences that patrol the fringes of ruck and maul. He makes his money on the far side of the gain line.

"It is up to me to start throwing the ball around more, not maybe run into brick walls when teams are making plans for me. I just have to be smarter."

The absence of Brian O'Driscoll leaves a hole in the Leinster leadership roster that has to be filled.

Who better to take Leinster forward than Ireland's reigning Player of the Year and a man voted among the top five star players at the Rugby World Cup.

Montpellier v Leinster

tomorrow, Sky Sports 1, ko 1.30

Verdict: Montpellier


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