No sooner than eight days had passed between Sean O’Brien making his return to professional rugby on debut for London Irish last month and the Premiership season being suspended.
The first appearance for the Irishman at his new club came in a 39-0 drubbing away at Sale Sharks. But that mattered little after a wretched ten months of rehabilitation and surgeries to correct a serious hip injury which threatened his chances of taking to the pitch again.
O’Brien isn’t a stranger to long-term injuries, having suffered numerous knee issues in his career.
Ultimately, the 61-Test Ireland flanker is able to count his blessings after the surgery.
“I was very pleased to get back on the field,” O’Brien told RTE. “It was long and a lot of work went into it. Some people said I was mad doing it but [I’d] no pain or soreness after the game.
“If I was happy with the way the last two years went for me rugby-wise, I probably would have just packed it in but I wasn’t satisfied.
“I’ve nothing to prove to anyone but I wanted it for myself. The other thing was that no-one had ever come back from this injury and played a professional rugby game so I had that in the back of my head as well.
“I wasn’t going to be stupid, if it wasn’t going to work it wasn’t going to work. But as I got back on the field I got more and more confident and the hip became better as I got more into rugby stuff rather than just running and strength.”
O’Brien, a two-time tourist with the British & Irish Lions, explained how his moments of gratitude didn’t just come from taking to the rugby pitch again. Moreover, the day-to-date ease of living without discomfort in his hip.
“It has given me a new lease of life. I can sleep well at night with no pain in my hip and there’s a lot to be said for small wins like that.
“I was looking forward to getting more games in the coming weeks but there are more important things in life now to be considering than rugby and sport.”
In an interview with The Rugby Paper last month, Exiles head coach George Skivington praised the immediate impact O’Brien had brought to the forwards and the wider squad since his arrival from Leinster.
“Sean’s been adding massively off the pitch – players don’t come much bigger or more professional – and I’m sure he’ll make a big impact in the Premiership,” Skivington told Neale Harvey.
“In the short time he’s been here you can see why he’s achieved what he has in the game and we’re all excited to see him on the pitch again now – although we’re not totally sure how our best back row will look yet.”
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