Thursday 26 April 2018

Ireland's Sean O'Brien turns focus to Canada after omission for New Zealand win

Ireland's Sean O'Brien says he would have been fit to play if selected in Chicago
Ireland's Sean O'Brien says he would have been fit to play if selected in Chicago

Sean O'Brien has admitted not fully seeing eye to eye with Joe Schmidt over the Ireland boss's decision to omit him from Saturday's historic victory over New Zealand.

Flanker O'Brien insists he felt "100 per cent" fit for the game in Chicago, where Schmidt's men claimed their first-ever win against the All Blacks.

Back-rowers O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony were held back from action in the United States as both continue to recover from long-term injuries.

O'Brien now expects both stars to channel any conflicted feelings into Saturday's Aviva Stadium Test clash with Canada.

"I wouldn't say I completely agreed with it," O'Brien said of being left out of Ireland's squad for the 40-29 triumph over New Zealand at Soldier Field.

"But that's the call that they made. I did need more game-time, but you always back yourself if called upon to do a good job.

"I've had no issues. I felt better every week and getting that game conditioning under my belt. I would have been 100 per cent if selected (for Chicago).

"Looking at it now, I'm probably better off getting more game-time like I did at the weekend and being introduced back in this week."

O'Brien has not featured in Test rugby since February, when he suffered another severe hamstring injury in RBS 6 Nations action against France.

The 29-year-old pulled up after just 20 minutes that day, and has been battling for a clean bill of health since.

Munster flanker O'Mahony has railed against knee problems since suffering ligament damage at the World Cup. But both are now on the cusp of full match fitness, and can expect to be unleashed against Canada this weekend.

Missing Ireland's first win over New Zealand in 111 years is bound to sit sorely with both ultra-competitors. But O'Brien accepts the challenge now is to produce a performance against Canada worthy of last weekend's landmark victory.

New Zealand will pitch up in Dublin on Saturday, November 19 for a hotly anticipated rematch - and O'Brien has every intention of fighting his way into the starting line-up for that clash.

"It's a huge game; it's a huge game for everyone," O'Brien said of Saturday's encounter against Canada.

"Younger guys, the likes of Pete (O'Mahony) with a lot of caps... It's another international game.

"You can be damn sure Canada will be preparing to come and beat us.

"We have to treat it like any Test match this week.

"Once you've been away from the set-up for a long time, pulling on an Irish jersey is going to mean a lot this weekend. So that's what we're looking forward to.

"I was delighted for the lads in Chicago. Obviously disappointed not to be over there and involved, but the lads put in a serious performance and effort. You could only be happy for them.

"There's a great buzz round the place (on Tuesday and on Monday). It was brilliant, but on a personal level not great. Possibly it was a week too soon for me.

"That's just the way it goes sometimes."

While O'Brien wants to use any chance against Canada to play for a place against the All Blacks, he admitted he must strike all such thoughts from his mind.

"That's something that's in the coaches' minds," O'Brien said about the potential to register two quickfire victories over New Zealand.

"A lot of us have to play well to be in contention to get involved.

"That's why, personally, I'm not thinking about it.

"I'm back to get a good performance under my belt and see where that leaves me."

Press Association

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