Monday 21 October 2019

O'Brien benefiting from Paul O'Connell as he learns captaincy ropes

Tommy O'Brien of Ireland
Tommy O'Brien of Ireland
Tommy O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Tommy O'Brien has been part of leadership groups throughout his fledgling career but captaining teams is not something he is used to.

Having been voted for the honour by his U-20 team-mates, the talented outside centre has been getting to grips with the role throughout the Six Nations.

His involvement in last year's squad helps, but more is expected of him this time around, which is something that has taken a bit of time to adjust to.

We have seen glimpses of O'Brien's undoubted potential, yet he is the first to admit that, at times, he has tried to take too much responsibility on himself. Having someone like forwards coach Paul O'Connell to learn from in that regard is a huge help, especially considering the former Ireland skipper had similar issues in the early stages of his own career.

"It's obviously a different challenge this year, compared to last year," O'Brien maintained.

"Last year, there were a lot of senior players and I was almost looking around going, 'Jeez, I'm happy to be here almost and make the most of it.'

"Whereas this year, it's more of a senior-player role.

"I would have talked to Paul and those kind of guys about what a leader should be. They were warning me against doing everyone's job.

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"I guess I might be sometimes guilty of trying to do that. I feel like I'm learning that and I am getting trust in the guys around me to let them to do their jobs and let me focus on doing mine. I might be a little of a controller, a bit of a perfectionist. But the guys are really coming along very well. In training they are really nailing it so I don't see any reason why it's not going to carry over into the games."

Ireland will have to up their game against England on Friday if they are to have any hope of winning the championship.

O'Brien is key to his side's chances, and as he explained, he is learning how to get the most out of himself and his team-mates.

"Paul was always just saying that there are times when you speak and people will listen, but no one wants to hear constant white noise and he's a believer that the best way to lead is by example. I'd be a firm believer of that," he added.

"Noel (McNamara) always says 'words are greater than thoughts, actions are greater than words'. It's that hierarchy and I always try and lead with actions. That's something Paul would always echo as well.

"It's a brilliant feeling winning but I just really hate losing. That's more the thing, that aspect would almost drive me a little bit more. Obviously, winning is a brilliant feeling but it's just that terrible feeling of losing."'s U-20s Six Nations coverage is in association with PwC

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