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Tullow Tank O'Brien targets starting role in Oz

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Leinster's Sean O'Brien. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

Leinster's Sean O'Brien. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

Leinster's Sean O'Brien. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

LEINSTER, Ireland and now a Lion – Seán O'Brien doesn't take a backward step, physically or verbally.

The Carlow man was keen to let all the contestants for back row honours on the tour to Australia know that he will take no prisoners "at six or seven or eight".

"Anything can happen. I am saying at the minute I can play all three and that is the way I am going to stay," he said.

"I think it is no different than other set-ups. In big weeks here, there is a massive edge about us. It is all full out. It is the same in Irish camps. There is a bit of cut in everything. I am sure it will be the exact same with The Lions"

That's right, the Tullow Tank will put all friendships and allegiances aside. He even has Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip set in his sights.

Did he see himself as a legitimate number eight in Australia? "Absolutely! I am going to back myself against whoever is out there. That has always been the way I was taught," he stressed.

The dominant opinion is that number eight, like out-half, is a two-man shootout between Heaslip and Wales' Toby Faletau.

"I am not going to say 'I can't play eight because the two lads are there'. There is six and seven. There are options there all over the place."

 

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Captain Sam Warburton has already been hailed as a test starter at six or seven by coach Warren Gatland. This squeezes the space in the back row.

"Obviously, Sam is captain. Gatland knows him from being involved in Wales. He has led them pretty well, to a lot of success.

"He is a world-class player on his day. We'll row in behind him as a squad and make sure we give him the support he needs.

"I have met him once or twice after games, spoken to him briefly, nothing major. He's a real nice fella. I can see no wrong in him anyway.

"You pick your captain as a test starter. But, if he picked up a knock or wasn't playing particularly well, he has the option to play other players.

"Obviously, I have to leave myself in the best possible position that – if that role pops up – I am ready to go into it".

There is a body of opinion that O'Brien has been an unused explosive weapon off the back of whatever scrum he packs down in.

Joe Schmidt and Declan Kidney have not seen it fit to remove Heaslip from a role that has always been first nature to him from his days at Newbridge College.

The versatility that opens up a world of options to O'Brien across the back row is the reason why he could also be destined for the role of impact replacement.

"It wouldn't be my view to be an impact player, no. It would be my view to start. That is what I'll be hoping for," he said.

"The most important thing for myself is to keep doing what I do and make sure I am right".


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