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A new dawn drives Sean

Sean O'Brien can be forgiven for wondering about the up and down nature of life as he embarks on his third full season on the professional circuit with Leinster.

Over the course of the last fortnight the Tullow wing forward has displayed typical tenacity and aggression against English Premiership hopefuls London Wasps and Leicester Tigers.

Leaving Welford Road last weekend, O'Brien's body language belied a man just merely content to be back out on the field after a six-month absence.

While the goal in every contest is to win, the nature of pre-season friendly fixtures is about establishing patterns, honing match sharpness and generating competition within the squad for the contests to come.

Irrespective of the degree or level of competition at this time of year, O'Brien was not a happy man. It's the age-old struggle of nature breeding hunger.

"Look, you're always going to be happy to be back playing after that kind of an absence, but there were aspects of our game -- and my own game -- that need a real improvement if we are to have any hope of beating Glasgow," was his honest assessment of the last fortnight.

"Neither result went our way, but there was an improvement against Leicester and we'll take the positives from that and take it into the start of the Magners League. You could see how spending that bit more time with each other -- training and playing -- is beginning to reap its benefits.

"We knew that we only played well for five and 10 minutes at a time against Wasps, but there were signs that we were getting more consistency into our game."

Having come through Leinster's preparations for the big Magners League kick off in Glasgow this evening, O'Brien, who was selected as captain in both friendlies, remains cautiously positive about his side's preparations.

"I still think we're in a good place", the 23-year-old reflected. "Whenever you have a new coaching team with new systems it will always take a bit of time to bed in ideas. Over the next few weeks we'll have a better idea how well we're bedding into the new regime, but I think that we're happy with where we are overall. There's a freshness to the set-up that keeps you on your toes and the approach by all of the players has been positive so far."

In between a gruelling personal and collective rehabilitation period over the summer months, O'Brien squeezed in short breaks to New York and to his brother Stephen's wedding in Jersey.

The last six months have been, he admits, a frustrating period which merely served to intensify his hunger to build on his 34 provincial and three senior international appearances.

"I don't like watching games," he reveals with an honest smile. "It's important when you're out injured to support the team in any way you can, even though you can't play yourself, but it hurts you. Of course it does. You want to be out there, helping the team where it matters on the field but you're stuck up in the stands and it can be frustrating.

"It's something you have to get on with. Since the injury (a broken leg sustained against the Scarlets in February), I've found that I've been looking forward to rehabbing because I just wanted to get back playing."



THreat

He believes that the Glasgow Warriors will pose a real threat on the opening weekend given the Scottish side's impressive closing run into the inaugural Magners League play-offs last season. The rejuvenation of Scottish rugby of late means that Leinster will need to be strong at set-pieces and to approach the game with a positive mindset.

"I think we'll need to have a strong set-piece," he said. "We will look to disrupt their scrum and lineout which has proven to be such an effective platform for them over the last few seasons. We'll then look to get good, quick go-forward ball and try to capitalise on any chances that might come our way.

"Even though they, like ourselves, will be missing a few players they're not a team of individuals. They're strong throughout (their squad) with a good pack of forwards and a number of dangerous backs. So we'll have to have a watchful eye on everyone." A new season signals a fresh start, he says, and it also brings about its own challenges.

"After a week or two injured you really do miss the buzz of being around the squad regularly. So after a long, tiring season -- and with the new coaching team coming in -- it has given everyone a lift. It has been an exciting time and everyone came in after their four or five weeks off with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

"It's going to be a big year. The support off the field at the training visits to Mullingar, Wexford Wanderers and Clondalkin which attracted thousands, as well as the 13,000 supporters who bought their season tickets, gives everyone a lift.

"Coming from the country myself, you can see that people really do feel that Leinster is their team and the links with the team across the province and right across the country have never been stronger.

"The move to the Aviva Stadium for the Munster and Clermont Auvergne games are going to be massive occasions, but there's a lot of hard work to be done before then." With a thoughtful pause he adds. "It's almost like the your first few days back in school .You want to make an impression when you're starting off, but you also don't want to make too many mistakes! A lot of the lads have done that and we want to keep on building and building, starting tonight."


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