| 16.8°C Dublin

O'Brien aim is Ulster clash


Seán O’Brien at Leinster squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Seán O’Brien at Leinster squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Seán O’Brien at Leinster squad training. Photo: Sportsfile

Seán O'Brien took his place on the bench, literally, in the Leinster dressing-room to field questions about his expected return from a serious hamstring injury.

The tail end of the PRO12 League is his target, most specifically what could be a game-changer when Leinster travel up to Ulster in Round 21 on April 30.

"I'm not contemplating coming back early but I'm contemplating coming back when I'm right," he said.

Afterall, there is just one more regular season match after the local derby, when Leinster entertain Benetton Treviso, before the onset of the PRO12 play-offs and then the three-test series in South Africa.

"It is a serious place to tour I've been told," he said. "No better place to go and see where you're at as a group and see where we're at mentally, especially in a place like that in such a hostile environment."

The intense cauldron of international rugby is no place for the feint-hearted or those not ready for it.

O'Brien was keen to put his big shoulder behind Joe Schmidt's treatment of Garry Ringrose this season.

"You fire him in there this year, I guarantee he gets hurt," warned O'Brien.

"You've big centres running down his channel. They're going to run straight into him. Regardless of how talented you are, you're going to get hurt.


"It's definitely the right idea about what the coaches are doing with these young lads who are phenomenally talented."

Schmidt's careful attitude to Ringrose is designed to keep the centre at the top-end of the game for a decade or more.

"He's trying to develop him and mind his body," continued O'Brien. "It's different for someone who has a bit of experience, had a year under his belt.

"If Garry goes in next year into the Six Nations, we'll see a different Garry in terms of his physicality, in terms of his smartness."

The urgent calls from outside Carton House to introduce Ringrose early are unwarranted.

"You're taking a huge risk there," he said.

"You put Garry in this year, you're taking out an experienced fella like Jared (Payne) or Robbie (Henshaw) or Lukey (Fitzgerald), even when he's fit, who has experience, someone who's very physical, someone who's smart.

"You're putting in a young fella because he's playing well for his club.

"Can he do it at international level? The thing about it is you don't know if he's able to do it at international."

However, it is a case of when, not if, in O'Brien's opinion. "He will do it at international level.

"But, as I said, I think it's the right thing to do with some of these very talented guys, make sure they're coming through the right way, are developed enough to last for Irish rugby."