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Leinster's Sean O'Brien. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Sean O'Brien. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Sean O'Brien. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

IT would appear more likely than not Seán O'Brien will miss the rest of the season.

Leinster coach Matt O'Connor agreed he is less hopeful now than before O'Brien's surgery that The Tullow Tank can make an impact at the end of the season.

"It was a little bit more serious as they couldn't do an arthroscopic procedure. They had to open him up which probably adds another month to it," he said.

Originally, O'Brien had been optimistically pencilled in for a four-month absence from the game, taking him up to the end of April.

This setback stitches another month onto his rehabilitation programme, taking him outside the scope of a return before the end of May.

"It is probably too early to say at the moment. He's going to be in and around the four to five month mark. That will have to be worked out with the surgeons.

"They were quite optimistic that it would be able to be done by an arthroscope. It had to be open surgery. And that changes the rehab slightly."

O'Brien will have time to mull over his future, where he wants to be and whether he feels the IRFU value him adequately. As will Jamie Heaslip.

Their coach is "pretty confident that both of them want to stay". It is about striking that balance between financial and winning rewards.

 

CONFIDENT

"We're confident in relation to backing an environment which is capable of winning things, of backing an environment that looks after the players very well and gives them the best chance to be as good as they can," said O'Connor.

"That being said, him and Jamie and others have got decisions to make whether they want to be a part of that.

"There's a whole range of things that make up that decision, but at this stage I'd be pretty confident."

The shift in financial power to France has given elite international players an argument to consider over where they should commit to next as the shifting sands undermine the IRFU.

"The last two or three years it has probably become a bigger issue because that's where the marquee signings go and where the big money is," said O'Connor.

"If you go back five or six years it wasn't uncommon. The teams in the southern hemisphere deal with it. The teams in England deal with it. It's not particularly isolated to Ireland. It's just the way the global market's gone."

While O'Brien's misfortune will bring an opportunity to the new kid Jordi Murphy or the old warhorse Shane Jennings, primarily, it will reduce the weapons in Leinster's armoury.

 

PRIDE

Leinster lead Pool 1 by four points from Northampton Saints with Castres another point back.

The French champions have nothing more than pride to play for at home. And that's all they need

"You gotta win two games," said O'Connor. "There is no point worrying about anything beyond Castres.

"You go to Castres, you win, you're in control of your own destiny and that's all we're focused on.

"They're a good side. They're big. They're physical. They lose very rarely there. We've got to make sure that we are peaking on Sunday.

"You get the result on Sunday, it changes it slightly, doesn't it?"

It changes everything.


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