Tuesday 24 October 2017

Cormac Byrne: Sean O'Brien's news banishes January blues

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien

No one hits harder, runs faster or bulldozes opponents quite like the Tullow Tank so thank the heavens that he is staying in the Emerald Isle.

The teak-tough 26-year-old who built up his physique working in his father's farm in Carlow has created his own cult following and I'm proud to say that I am among their ranks.

His raw power makes him box office material but it's his deft touches ans subtle off-loads that make him the world class player he undoubtedly is.

Although we in Irish rugby circles had been salivating over O'Brien's talents for many years, he really became a global sensation at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Ably assisted by Stephen Ferris, O'Brien pumelled the Aussies into submission to help us to one of our greatest ever results in our long history in the game.

The Welsh played the best compliment to O'Brien in that tournament by identifying him as Ireland's greatest threat and targeting him from the off.

Wales' defence coach Shaun Edwards gave Toby Faletua and Sam Warburton the task of bullifying O'Brien with snapping tackles by the ankles, defenders who had tried to take O'Brien high were swatted away like flies and unfortunately Edwards tactics worked a treat.

For much of his career most analysts felt that O'Brien was being played out of position at number seven and would be much more suited to number eight or the blindside but it's a testament to his dexterity that he honed his skills to become a world class openside.

O'Brien is now one of the best breakdown operators in the game with his huge upper-body strength forcing turnovers and opposition to concede penalties.

The Carlow man is entering his prime now and the next two years will hopefully culminate in a massive display from him at the 2015 World Cup.

Keeping O'Brien here, where Leinster can manage him carefully, is ideal given the rigours that the French game demands. His injuries can be limited better at Leinster and his playing schedule adapted to suit both Ireland and Leinster.

O'Brien believes Leinster can be challenging for trophies for the next five or six years. It puts a smile on the face to think that he is thinking that far into the further.

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