Football, Rugby, UFC, GAA
All free when you join eir Broadband
Sean O'Brien will join London Irish after the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
O'Brien's contract with the IRFU and Leinster runs until this year's World Cup but as he is set to turn 32 later this month an extension has been ruled out due to his age and history of injuries.
News of O'Brien's impending move to London Irish emerged ahead of Ireland's Guinness Six Nations win over Scotland but the deal was only confirmed on Monday.
“This is one of the hardest decisions that I have ever had to make. I have played all my rugby in Ireland,” O’Brien said.
“With Tullow, with Leinster and with Ireland and to move from the place I call home and that I love so much, was not easy.
“That being said, I feel that the time has come to explore other opportunities, to challenge myself at a new environment, in a new city, with a new club and against different players and teams on a weekly basis. London Irish and what they are about is a club that I feel I can grow with and also contribute to and I feel that they have a set up and an ethos that will make me feel at home.
“For me and the time I have left here in Ireland, I want to stay fit and healthy and finish out the season with a strong Six Nations with Ireland and then turn my attention to Leinster and hopefully a seat on the plane to Japan.”
London Irish are currently top of the Championship and are looking to strengthen in a number of areas ahead of their return to the Premiership - Nick Phipps, Allan Dell and Curtis Rona have all signed for the club, while former Ireland international Paddy Jackson has been linked with the English side.
Declan Kidney is looking forward to welcoming O'Brien to the club.
“Recruitment is an on-going process, and we are always on the lookout for players of Sean’s ability. Sean has proven himself time and time again to be a quality player who sets very high standards for himself and those around him, he leads by example and has a winning mentality.
“We are delighted that Sean wants to come and be a part of our journey as we move back into West London at the new Brentford Community Stadium in August 2020 after he has finished his commitments to Leinster and Ireland at the end of this year.”
A product of the Leinster Academy, O'Brien made his debut for the province in September 2008 and he has made 122 appearances, winning the PRO12 three times before being a member of the squad that won the PRO14 last season. As well as four Heineken Champions Cup medals, O'Brien won a Challenge Cup medal in 2013 and was named European Player of the Year in 2011.
"Seán has been a key driver of Leinster Rugby’s success over the last ten years and played a pivotal role in our four Heineken Cup-winning seasons," Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said.
“He has not only been a world class player on the field, but has also made an incredible impact in growing the game all over the province. He has also been a model professional and a shining example to our young and Academy players.
“As a teammate, Seán was the sort of competitor you always wanted beside you. He is the kind of player who gives you the confidence that anything is possible – nothing fazes him and he always led from the front.
“Everyone at Leinster wishes only the very best for Seánie in his future as he embarks on a new challenge. We will all miss him greatly, but his legacy here will live on as he has influenced so many of us in such a positive way.
“For now, we hope to finish this season strongly and, after his disappointment of missing out on a number of big games last season through injury, we hope Seán can play a major part in Leinster’s push for silverware in two competitions this season.”
Despite his impending move to London Irish, O'Brien will remain part of Joe Schmidt's plans for the World Cup.
Leinster are in Italy to face Zebre in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday, 16 February live on eir sport 1 [kick-off 2.30pm]. Subscribe here
Image: Inpho Photography