Saturday 17 March 2018

O'Brien delighted with Schmidt's priceless advice

Ireland U-20s winger Tommy O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland U-20s winger Tommy O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Ireland's open training sessions are beginning to forge a reputation that can only benefit Irish rugby as a whole going forward.

On one hand last Friday in Monaghan, you had approximately 3,000 people getting a first-hand taste of how Ireland tick under Joe Schmidt and, on the other, you had an U-20s squad eager to make an impression.

For the senior pros, the open sessions are a regular fixture in the calendar but for the U-20s who provide the opposition, it is a chance to prove that they can mix it with the big boys.

Tempers frayed during last year's session in Athlone while on Friday, there was, at times, a tension that will have been very much welcomed by Schmidt and Nigel Carolan.

"I heard there was a bit more (bite) last year, but the intensity was insane," U-20s winger Tommy O'Brien maintained.

"It was a bit of a step-up for everyone, and then with Joe Schmidt in the middle controlling it all, that was pretty cool. He demanded really high standards, so that was pretty cool.

"I was just trying to get involved as much as I could. At the start it was weird, just jogging out with, I think there was about 3,500 people there watching.

"It was a bit strange jogging out at the start, but then once you get into the warm-up and stuff, it kind of just becomes another training session - albeit against very high-standard opposition. It was kind of just another training session, you stick to your principles and see how they treat you."

While Schmidt's focus was understandably largely on his own side, several of the U-20s impressed, including O'Brien whose clever lines of running kept the defence on their toes.

"Obviously he was keeping an eye more on the senior lads, but he was just kind of instilling basic principles in us," O'Brien said.

"I was defending out on the wing so he was letting me know if Simon Zebo is breaking on the outside of me, I've got to keep my eye on the outside of him. Just little tips, so that was pretty cool, that he'd take me aside and give us little tips."

The U-20s returned to training on Monday where there was an added bite on the back of their worthwhile hit-out against the seniors.

"The last few weeks, our intensity has been great, but last Friday it was on another level. We've carried that on," O'Brien added.

O'Brien, who is underage again next year, will be hoping to push for a first start of this season's Six Nations when Ireland host France on Friday and if his performance in Monaghan is anything to go by, it's an opportunity that he will seize with both hands.

Irish Independent

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