Exeter Chiefs have announced the signing of Connacht centre Sean O’Brien, as revealed in The Rugby Paper.
The 23-year-old spent three seasons in Connacht’s academy before enjoying a breakthrough season in the PRO14 this year.
A former Ireland U20 international, O’Brien was not offered a senior pro deal at the province to allow Exeter to land a player who had caught Rob Baxter’s eye.
“It’s a great new challenge for me,” said O’Brien. “I’ve had a great spell there [in Connacht], but now is the time for me to go and test myself in the Premiership.
“Exeter are a club who have been winning trophies, they play a great brand of rugby and the culture here looks great, who wouldn’t want to join them?”
Director of rugby Baxter flagged the qualities that had caught his eye and cited club legend Ian Whitten as an example of what O’Brien could achieve in the coming years.
“Obviously, we are always on the look out for talented, young players and recruitment is an ongoing process,” said Baxter. “Looking at our squad going forward – and the positions where you could potentially need cover – you could see potential around that midfield area for us to get a bit light.
“That said, I think Sean is one of those players who can push for a place straight away. We’ve seen quite a lot of him when he broke into the Connacht first team and he looks to me – when I code out the games – a player who has a lot of the characteristics that we look for in our players.
“He’s a very good defender, deceptively quick, strong on the ball and when you break his game down, it’s actually very pleasing. He’s also in that right age range, early 20s, so he is one of those recruitment positions that kind of work all ways round for us.
“The last guy we brought from Ireland similarly was Ian Whitten and you look at how good he has been for us, the amount of games he’s played, and what an important figure he has been at the club, so there were a lot of reasons we went for a guy like Sean.
“He ticks a lot of boxes and I’m just really glad we can get him here early, bedded in, and starting that process of becoming an Exeter Chief.”