Stephen Ferris Has An Interesting Take On Sean O’Brien’s Absence For The French Game

Quiet word.

Former Ulster and Ireland back-row Stephen Ferris reckons there could be more to Sean O’Brien’s absence from Ireland’s matchday squad for the win over France on Sunday.

O’Brien didn’t even make the bench last week despite featuring against England and Scotland in the previous rounds. Instead Josh van der Flier started the game with Jack Conan providing cover from the bench.

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But was his axing purely Joe Schmidt’s decision? Maybe not. Ferris reckons O’Brien might have had a quiet word with the Ireland boss and admitted he’s still not 100% in terms of form and match fitness after an injury ravaged 18 months or so – because “that’s the kind of person” he is.

“Maybe Seanie has had a quiet word to Joe himself,” Ferris told the RTÉ Rugby podcast.

“This might not be a Joe Schmidt decision; this might be a Sean O’Brien decision. He might have said, ‘Joe, look, I’m just not 100% there, I need to work harder’ and that’s the kind of person Sean is too.”

“I think there’s a lot of respect between him and Joe Schmidt. If there is any decision that needs to be made between each other they can figure it out usually.’

“We all know that Seanie is a favourite of Joe Schmidt, so maybe it was Seanie that went to him with the advice of trying to get a bit more fitness under his belt before the season ends.”

O’Brien is expected to return against Wales on Saturday and Ferris is hoping he can get back to full fitness because as far as he’s concerned O’Brien is a “huge asset to Irish Rugby.”

“A fully fit Sean O’Brien steps into, generally, every team in the world so hopefully he gets himself right for the World Cup warm-ups and he gets himself on the plane to Japan because he is a huge asset to Irish rugby and a good man to have around the squad too.”