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Tullow Tank trains his guns on France in his first international for 15 months


Ireland's Sean O'Brien after a press conference. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

Ireland's Sean O'Brien after a press conference. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

Ireland's Sean O'Brien after a press conference. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

Sean O'Brien may well have played last week had Ireland been playing France then.

"If it was France, yeah, I probably would have if it was this week it happened because you would have a week to assess things (before England).

"It was just probably too risky. There was no point in me going out there half-cocked: we had lads ready to rock."

The difference between Italy and France is the difference between a game you should win and one you could win.

"They're big, physical men and when you play against France you know you have played against France. Every test.

"I remember a World Cup warm-up game there a few years back and it was the same thing: a big, hard, physical game.

"We know how hard it will be. We know they can be unpredictable, that they can throw the ball around and that they have threats everywhere.

"Their back three are like lightning so we can't be giving them any scraps. We can't be sloppy in our approach."

"The French are the type of team that you want to do really well against so that's what will rev us up.

"We need to minimise them and their threats so that's the exciting part of it.

"There's no better team to look at when they do get going."

The 27 year-old flanker just doesn't want France to find their flair tomorrow.

What a difference a week can make. O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip and Jonathan Sexton have all been recalled by coach Joe Schmidt as his three changes for the French.

All three could be under-cooked to one degree or another. O'Brien has played twice this season, not played for Ireland since that cold November day against New Zealand in 2013.

"I don't think it's going to be a concern because the intensity of our training has been really, really high in the last few weeks.

"Personally, I've done a lot of fitness over the last month or so as well even though I'm only coming back in.

"I've only played 50 minutes but I feel very good and I felt better every week that's gone by."


The 'three hombres' do give Ireland a really strong spine and the knock-on effect is that the squad looks as good as it ever has to O'Brien. Even better than that, in fact.

Is it the best since the Carlow man made his Ireland debut against Fiji back in 2009? "It probably is when you look at it.

"You look at our bench as well. It probably is the strongest team we've had in a long time.

"Obviously I've been missing for a good while now. It's good and it's exciting and it's good to see we have that strength in depth there now."