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Once the 2019 World Cup in Japan comes to a close, Leinster and Ireland’s Sean O’Brien will be playing his club rugby abroad with English side London Irish.
For a one-club man like O’Brien, who has spent all of his professional career with Leinster, there will be some difficulty when he finally has to say goodbye.
The 32-year-old was speaking to the media at Ireland’s Six Nations base in Carton House today and he admitted that there was some tears shed over the last few months as he came to the decision to move abroad to continue his career.
“It’s been incredible,” O’Brien said when asked on his time with Leinster.
“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.”
In terms of how the move came about, O’Brien reveals that it was a mixture of himself and London Irish approaching each other but also that the prospect of playing under former Ireland head coach Declan Kidney, who is now Director of Rugby with the club, contributed to his decision.
“I suppose just speaking to Deccie 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.”
Of course, what comes with leaving these shores is the likelihood of not being selected to play for Ireland but O’Brien still harbours ambitions of playing for his country even though he will be in England.
“I think I can add value to this group, even after I leave Leinster, I’d hope to be selected.
“But again 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.”
The IRFU didn’t offer O’Brien a new contract which meant that offers from abroad would have heavily surpassed what Leinster would have been able to provide.
Going back to discussing how the move came about, O’Brien reveals that the decision was “out of his hands”.
“You make these decisions based on a lot of things, it was probably the toughest thing I ever had to do, was to move away from Leinster. I never thought I was going to be in that situation but that’s the way it goes sometimes and that’s the environment we are in, in professional sport. I hadn’t thought too much about it. It all happened very fast.”
O’Brien continued: “Yeah, it was kind of out of my hands. Again, 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 10-12 years so it was time to move on and do something else.”