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O'Brien caught in injury dilemma as clock ticks down on Ulster collision


Sean O'Brien

Sean O'Brien

?INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Sean O'Brien

a VIRTUAL Sean O'Brien is up on a big screen boshing buses and side-stepping taxis, but down below the real deal admits he is losing his battle to face Ulster this weekend.

The 'Tullow Tank' may have his own video game, but he is experiencing some mechanical issues after clashing knees with a Stade Francais player in last week's Amlin Challenge Cup final.

His condition caused mixed messages to flow out of the Leinster and Lions camps – "a communication breakdown" according to himself – with Warren Gatland fretting over his Test availability and Leinster marking him as a mere doubt for tomorrow's Pro12 final against Ulster.

After a week of physical assessments, the final call will be made this morning and his Lions prospects are a factor in the decision. If he was facing holidays he'd play, but the tour is looming and he is loath to ruin his chances before the plane departs for Hong Kong.

"It's going to be tight," he said. "At the start of the week it was looking dodgy but then on Monday evening, I was feeling good again.

"If I get another slap on the same spot where the bruising is it might hinder my chances of playing in the first couple of games on tour. That's the risk. They're going to assess it and see what happens. If it wasn't for the Lions I'd probably just chance it because if anything did happen I'd have the rest of the summer to heal up.

"That's the thing that's killing me the most, not knowing what way it will be and whether to chance it or not."

Apart from his visits to Carton House to be looked at by the Lions medical team, O'Brien has had limited interaction with the touring squad.

He and the Leinster players dropped into Jamie Heaslip's restaurant on Wednesday night, but left before the craic really started. They fly to Hong Kong on Sunday with plenty of catching up to do.

"We went in for dinner and left the lads at it. We definitely didn't go to Coppers anyway," he smiled.

"Jamie and all the staff looked after us. It was good to see everyone there and there was a buzz in around the camp and it is up to us, the lads who are coming in next to get up to speed.

"The other lads have had two weeks now to get used to it, the structures and gameplan, the line-out calls."

Ahead of the global attention of the Lions comes the more parochial clash with Ulster whose '#OurDS' promotional film has ruffled feathers around Leinster way.

By nominating the RDS as their home venue, the northerners were laying down a marker and tomorrow's nominal away side are not impressed.

"They might be laying down a marker in their own heads, do you know what I mean?" O'Brien said at the launch of the mobile game 'Street Rugby'. "It's not their home ground, it's our home ground. Whatever they think about it themselves, fair play to them.

"We want the opposition to respect us there. I wouldn't read too much into it, but whatever they want to do, whatever motivation they want to give themselves, they can do. We'll look after our own stuff. I'm sure it'll be a cracking game and neither side will give an inch."

Whatever happens, O'Brien reckons Leinster won't experience the same post-European hangover that has affected their Pro12 final efforts in recent years.

"We probably didn't prepare as best we could. A Heineken final takes more out of you anyway than an Amlin, to be honest," he said.

"Lads could say they were fatigued in previous years, I certainly was against Munster two years ago down there – I was strolling around the place, I could not get moving or get the energy.

"It definitely makes a big difference, a home crowd will help and everyone will want to give Joe (Schmidt), Jonny (Sexton) and Isa (Nacewa) a big send-off."

Irish Independent