Ireland's Sean O’Brien doesn’t regret lashing out at Pascal Papé in game against France

Sitting out Ireland’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat by Argentina due to suspension was tough to take but there is a little bit of Sean O’Brien that doesn’t regret lashing out at Pascal Papé in the opening minutes of the final pool game against France.

Ireland's Sean O’Brien doesn’t regret lashing out at Pascal Papé in game against France

Ireland had to go into the Argentina game without a third of the first-choice team from the successful Six Nations campaign but O’Brien was the only absentee that had himself to blame, with the others suffering from injury.

That was a bitter pill to swallow, without a doubt, but given the knowledge that France would try to impose themselves physically, the flanker just felt that a marker needed to be laid down.

“If you look at it in real time, it was so quick . . . it was a thing that probably shouldn’t have happened obviously and I paid the price for it afterwards” said O’Brien.

“At the same time, there’s a part of me that regrets it and a part of me that doesn’t. I think it put a statement out to a few of their bully boys that we weren’t going to be bullied. Obviously, the bigger picture, it shouldn’t have happened but it did and that’s the way it is.”

Head coach Joe Schmidt is known for not letting slip-ups slide but O’Brien wasn’t subjected to the sharp end of the New Zealander’s tongue.

The way O’Brien tells it, it was almost as if Schmidt appreciated the fine line he was treading. Apart from that though, he had a big game hurtling down the tracks and needed to accentuate the positive with the players that were available.

“Obviously, it wasn’t ideal as one of the leaders within the group to react like that. I think Joe understood exactly what I was trying to do. It was just unfortunate that it happened.

“He didn’t go crazy at me or anything. What was the point at that stage? It was done with. I had done what I done and we just had to deal with what was ahead of us and that was the hearing and all that.”

The two-match ban was reduced to one because of previous good behaviour but with France head coach, Philippe Saint-Andre stoking the fires by describing what happened as “an assault”, he agrees with the notion that Papé did him no favours.

“No, he didn’t. You know, that’s something he probably wanted to do himself. If the shoe was on the other foot I certainly wouldn’t be whinging or crying about it. But that’s the decision they made and I think their coach had a big part to play in it as well with the way he reacted.

“It shouldn’t have happened. I shouldn’t have done it. That would have taken everything out of the equation then. But they made a good song and dance about it when they had an opportunity to.”

Meanwhile, O’Brien has been pleased to have Leinster duties to get back into the swing of things and after making his first Guinness Pro12 start in last weekend’s victory over the Scarlets at the RDS, is now contemplating a home Champions Cup opener against Wasps.

In his short time back in the fold since former teammate Leo Cullen was named head coach on a permanent basis, O’Brien has noticed a significant upturn in intensity.

“You look at the likes of games last year and the individual errors that were made in games, our big games, they were probably made during the week in training where our standards slipped and weren’t high enough.

“This year already it is different, there is no place to hide. You are accountable for everything and you will know about it if you do something wrong.

“On the other hand, then, if you are training at a higher standard during the week then you are going to play like that.

“It just doesn’t happen. I think maybe last year we were guilty of thinking it will happen for us at the weekend but it is your actions during the week and the way you perform in training that will lead to the way you play and I think in that alone we have seen massive improvement already.”

Sean O’Brien, who is himself a beef farmer, was speaking at a press conference at the Barack Obama Plaza in Moneygall to mark Supermac’s commitment to Irish farmers to an excess of €20m, increased in part due to the fresh 5oz 100% Irish Beef Burger, the first fresh meat burger available in a quick service food chain in Ireland.

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