SEAN O'BRIEN admits he was blowing hard after 20 minutes of last night's return to action for the Ireland Wolfhounds, but insists he can make an impact in Rome if called upon for next week's Six Nations opener.
The Tullow Tank cut an abrasive figure as he looked to make up for lost time at Irish Independent Park last night, throwing himself into contact during a strong 52-minute outing in the Ireland back-row.
The night ultimately ended in defeat, but Joe Schmidt and his selectors could take comfort from the performance of their world-class openside, who has barely played for 12 months but threw himself into the action.
"I struggled after 20 minutes, I blew up, but I was expecting that and I was happy just to get back out there and get 50 under my belt," he said.
"I'm not sure really, ideally I'd like more game time before next week but there's no opportunity. Everyone is in with a chance, he said it was an opportunity for lads to put up their hands for next week. You don't know what Joe's thinking, you don't know what way he'll approach the game.
"If I was selected I'd be confident of doing a job at some stage of the game, although obviously I wouldn't last 80 minutes."
O'Brien said he had no choice but to throw himself straight into the thick of the contact after recovering from his second shoulder surgery in a year.
"I had no real option, I can take confidence from that - there was no after effects on the shoulder," he said.
"Everything in training is a controlled environment, it's set up for you. Out there you don't know what's going to happen. It's good I got in different positions, got hits from different angles and it never budged.
"Absolutely, I did feel rusty around the ruck area and just that I've been out for a while and there's nothing like a good game to get you back into it.
"I'll have a look now at the video and then get working on those things this week."