It’s been almost a year since Leinster’s Sean O’Brien last lined-out for Ireland, but on Saturday he will make his latest return as Joe Schmidt’s men meet Argentina at the Aviva Stadium.
The “Tullow Tank” has been ravaged by injuries over the last number of years and despite starring for the Lions in 2017, hip and shoulder injuries meant that O’Brien was forced to miss Ireland’s incredible Six Nations Grand Slam victory as well as their 2-1 series win over Australia.
Despite his injury troubles and sporadic appearances of late in the green of Ireland, former captain Brian O’Driscoll still feels that O’Brien can be one of Joe Schmidt’s most important players.
“There are some intangibles with Seanie,” began O’Driscoll, speaking at a media event organised by Guinness.
“I think the confidence he brings when you see his name on the teamsheet and the experience of having done it before. I can’t think of too many bad games that Sean has ever had.
“He is so confrontational and so aggressive that there’s no backwards step in him and it’s comforting to see that in one of your leaders and main ball carriers. A guy that can be destructive but also has really developed his skillset.
“There’s an aura to Seanie. It’s the unknowns that players have that when they’ve played with someone they have an appreciation for them and I think you’d see that in a lot of the older players, they love having Sean in their team.”
O’Brien will start in the back row for Ireland against Argentina on Saturday, an area in which Schmidt is lucky enough to have a plethora of talent to choose from.
Despite the likes of Jordi Murphy and Josh Van Der Flier having excellent seasons, O’Driscoll outlined that there is only one man he’d have lining out at openside when fit.
“Dan Leavy was great last season,” explained O’Driscoll.
“Josh (Van Der Flier) has been excellent this year, Jordi Murphy has done nothing wrong but when everyone is fit I still like Sean O’Brien as my openside starting for the World Cup.
“He’s rated and he’s got respect from those that he’s played with and those that he’s played against and he’s done it over a long period of time.
“We’re in a fortunate position that we’ve got great sevens but I think with everyone fit, playing at their best, Sean is still number one.”
Ireland will be looking to build upon their 54-7 victory over Italy last weekend, with a strong performance against Argentina, a nation who has proven to be their bogey team in crucial games.
O’Driscoll outlines that as Ireland prepare for Argentina and the huge clash with the All-Blacks the week after, having a leader like O’Brien in the team will give everyone around him a huge boost.
“He’s the sort of player that if you rub up the wrong way he can do serious damage to you in training and those sort of players are always frightening to have in your environment but that you’re thankful to have on your side.
“Seanie is a real leader. You can hear his voice on every ref cam, every scrum, every ruck, he’s a Duracell bunny.
“He just constantly does not stop and that brings a confidence.
“Some would say that when you verbalise for 80 minutes that’s a sign that he’s fit because if you’re not the first thing that goes is the chat. He’s the ultimate communicator as well and yeah I think he’s a terrific player”
Ahead of the Guinness Series kicking off this weekend, former Irish international rugby player Brian O’Driscoll was on hand to preview Ireland’s game against Argentina as a part of Guinness’ #AnswerIrelandsCall campaign. #AnswerIrelandsCall celebrates the camaraderie between rugby fans, by giving them a voice and rallying them to get behind the Irish Rugby team. Throughout the series fans are encouraged to get involved as Guinness is giving away a number of pairs of tickets to each fixture including the sold out Ireland v New Zealand game at the Aviva Stadium. Fans should visit the Guinness Facebook page and leave their message of support using the #AnswerIrelandsCall to be in with a chance to win tickets to the Guinness Series (terms and conditions apply) *.
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