Sport Six Nations

Saturday 23 March 2019

Sean O'Brien admits to tears over his Leinster exit but he doesn't want his Ireland career to end after London Irish move

Sean O'Brien during an Ireland rugby press conference at Carton House in Maynooth, Co Kildare. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Sean O'Brien during an Ireland rugby press conference at Carton House in Maynooth, Co Kildare. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O’Connor

Seán O’Brien says he teared up when considering his Leinster exit, but he remains hopeful that this will not be his last Six Nations campaign despite signing for London Irish after the World Cup.

The Ireland flanker was on media duties at Ireland’s Kildare base today and spoke for the first time about his decision to leave for the Exiles when his contract ends after the tournament in Japan.

Since Johnny Sexton returned from his stint at Racing 92, Joe Schmidt has not picked players based overseas with Ian Madigan, Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo all missing out on selection.

Earlier this month, the coach re-iterated his intention to prefer home-grown players as an unofficial policy.

But O’Brien believes that he can remain an option after he leaves his beloved Leinster.

"It's been incredible,” he said of his time with his home province.

“There's been a few tears shed over the last few months thinking about all of this.

“When you do make your final decision, it's a tough place, at the end of it all you're just packing your bags and you're walking out the door and moving to a different club.

“It hasn't been that easy but it is what it is. You back yourself to go over there and do a job.

“If I'm fit and well and I think I can add value to this group, even after I leave Leinster, I'd hope to be selected.

“That's so long away and it's probably a decision that the coaches and whoever is in charge at the time will have to make.

“But there's always hope there, I think, that regardless of where you are, you're still in with a shout if you're playing well enough.

“Until the World Cup finishes that is all up in the air.

“Afterwards I would hope to be still in the mix if possible and if fit, but I haven't really thought that far ahead yet.

“Because I am contacted to the World Cup it is what it is at the minute., But you never know what will happen about it.

Schmidt will also move on after the World Cup with Andy Farrell taking over and O’Brien says he hasn’t spoken to the incoming coach about his future.

“No, I haven't spoken to Faz about it,” he said.

"It's too far away to think about really. I am only back in a couple of weeks here so it's not a priority for me at the minute.

“I want to focus on playing well back here and staying fit and I'll think about that stuff in November and December.”

O’Brien had several options to consider after he learned that his national contract would not be renewed by the IRFU.

“It was kind of out of my hands,” O’Brien said.

“Regardless of what options are there, I made the decision based on a lot of stuff for me as well, personally.

“New challenge, new environment, new competition. They were all things that excited me, testing myself in a different environment.

“I have given a lot to Leinster this last 11-12 years so it was time to move on and do something else.

“I'm very happy with the decision now at this stage.

"I'm glad it's kind of done and dusted so I can concentrate on my rugby now and over the next few months.

"It's been good really, it's been received pretty well and I'm happy with what I've decided to do, so, that's where we are.

“I started looking at other options and there was a few other clubs in the mix as well.

“But, I suppose, just speaking to Deccie (Declan Kidney) and what they wanted me to do over there, what they want to try to achieve, I thought it was a really good fit.

“Someone who knows me as well inside out and knows what I can bring to them. Yeah, it just made sense for me."

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