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'It's all up in the air' - Seán O'Brien insists players may need convincing to return to rugby

London Irish star on lockdown: 'It's been brilliant for my body, I don't think I've ever been as fit as I am right now'

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London Irish star Sean O'Brien has warned that some players may not be comfortable coming back to contact training amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

London Irish star Sean O'Brien has warned that some players may not be comfortable coming back to contact training amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

London Irish star Sean O'Brien has warned that some players may not be comfortable coming back to contact training amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Seán O’Brien says he believes rugby will be the last sport to return from the sporting lockdown and warned that some players may not be comfortable coming back to contact training.

The London Irish star had only just come back from a long injury lay-off before all action was suspended as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He is training at home at Tullow, Co Carlow and says the extended break has left him in better condition than he’s been in since the 2017 Lions tour.

The English Premiership has not yet confirmed it’s restart date after a return to training was delayed and, while New Zealand rugby will resume next month and Irish rugby has planned an August come-back O’Brien said there is work to do to convince some players.

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"It’s a crystal ball question," he said.

"There is a lot of contact in rugby, we’re on top of each other and in each others’ faces. We’re in close proximity at all times.

"I do know from certain lads in the Premiership, from talking to certain people they do have parents living with them or big families and all that has to be taken into account when we go back into the rugby environment.

"Obviously, we all want to go back playing rugby in a safe and manageable way for us all.

"It's a difficult one, I think it will be the last one to go back for sure, maybe not training but definitely playing games.

"There was a suggestion we could be put into isolation together, just as players, but that wouldn't sit well with some lads with wives and kids, etc.

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"Everything's an option at the minute, it's all very up in the air. That's the hard thing, we don't know anything and we don't know the plan to move forward."

World Rugby may allow countries tweak the sport's rules to reduce contact time if it helps expedite rugby's return and their studies have shown that contact time is less than previously feared.

O'Brien, meanwhile, says he hasn't given up on playing for Ireland again and believes this extended break from rugby has left him in the best shape he's been in for years.

The former Leinster flanker moved to London Irish last summer, but missed the majority of the campaign with the hip injury that ruled him out of the Rugby World Cup.

He returned to action for one match before the sport shut-down due to the coronavirus pandemic and spent the period in lockdown in Mayo and his home town of Tullow where he is helping out on the family farm.

Although frustrated by having his return curtailed, O’Brien says the break has allowed him get as fit as he has since he starred in the 2017 Lions tour.

"It came at a really bad time for me because I'd only played one game, but it's going to be good for me now," he said of the lockdown on the McSport My Motivation series.

"Looking back now it's been brilliant for my body, I don't think I've ever been as fit as I am right now.

"I did some running tests two weeks ago and haven't had scores like it since 2017.

"So it's given me a chance to get a lot of work through my body and into a really good place if things do kick off quickly.

"It's an opportunity to get yourself into the best shape of your life or sit on your arse all day and not do much, so I'm definitely not going to do that, anyway."


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