O’Brien free to play in final

SEAN O’BRIEN is free to play in the Heineken Cup final after escaping an ERC citing.

The Leinster sensation was captured on television swinging out at Yannick Nyanga after the Toulouse forward held him back in the run-up to Louis Picamoles’ try at the Aviva.

There were fears the Carlow man would be cited, just as Paul O’Connell was earlier this year, and would miss the Heineken Cup final.

However, the 50-hour deadline passed yesterday with just Stade Francais’s Rodrigo Roncero brought up for a late body check on Clermont Auvergne’s Morgan Parra.

It leaves O’Brien clear to join Leinster in their quest to win their last four matches of the season to become the first team to win the Heineken Cup and Magners League double.

Saturday’s epic Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Toulouse confirmed they’re the form team in Europe this season, but Jonny Sexton knows only too well that potential glory can slip away.

“We’re wary because of what happened last season when we were in a similar position to this and suddenly it was all taken away from us,” cautioned Sexton yesterday.

“We got to the semi-final of the European Cup and were beaten by Toulouse and we got to the final of the Magners and lost it at home to the Ospreys which still leaves a bitter taste.

“Last season could have been a brilliant season and we finished with nothing, and we’re in a similar position now. We have four games left and if we win all four we’ll have achieved something that no other team has before and that’s what’s motivating us at the moment.”

Sexton played a big part in Leinster’s last Heineken Cup final victory over Leicester two years ago, but believes if the province win the competition this year it will be a much more satisfying achievement for him.

“The last time I was thrown in as a substitute at the semi-final stage whereas this year I’ve played in every single match so it would definitely mean more to me to win it this time around.

“Because I’ve played so much I feel like I’ve really contributed a lot whereas two years ago when I played in the final my main motivation was not letting the team down. I think we’re a tighter bunch now too and it would be great to win with this group of players.”

Back then Sexton was a rookie and reckons the squad’s experience of that final in Edinburgh will stand to them when they play Northampton.

“All these experiences that you build up do help and I’m sure having played in a European Cup final before will help us.

“We’re not thinking too much about that final yet though because it’s just been drilled into us for the last half-hour that we’re back to Magners League duty now against Glasgow on Friday and we have to focus on getting a home semi-final.”

It would be understandable if some Leinster players struggled to regain their focus for Friday’s test against the Scots such was the epic nature of Saturday’s victory over Toulouse.

It’s been described by many as the best match in the history of the competition, but for Sexton it wasn’t even the best Leinster display he’s been part of.

“I don’t think it’s the best Leinster performance I’ve been involved in, but it was definitely one of the most satisfying. They’re one of the best sides in Europe and have the best history in the Heineken Cup and in many ways we did it the hard way against them. We gifted them a lead and it’s hard to play against teams like that when they have the lead.

“Seven points is a big lead in matches like that but I was happy with the way we chipped away at it and no-one panicked. There were some technical things that didn’t come off and we probably lost the set-piece in the first half but they’re all things that we can learn from.”

Despite the physically attritional nature of Saturday’s match, apart from a few bumps and bruises, every Leinster player involved have declared themselves fit for Friday’s showdown against Glasgow.


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