O’Leary relishing Exiles leadership role

So far so good for Tomas O’Leary following his move from Munster to London Irish.

His new coach, Brian Smith, heaped praise on the Irish international following their 34-10 victory over Munster at Musgrave Park on Friday night, describing the Corkman as ‘unbelievable.’

“He is really emerging as a leader for us,” said Smith. “We signed him because I’ve coached teams against him and both I and Shaun Edwards rate him very highly. We know there are a lot of good scrum-halves in Ireland but he is right up there with the best of them. We have asked him to step forward to play a leadership role at the club, he is very vocal, and we wanted a bit of Munster at London Irish.

“He is very demanding of the other boys and I think he will bring that Munster winning culture to us.”

O’Leary admitted it was a strange experience to line out against his old Munster friends and colleagues in Musgrave Park: “It was a little weird. I felt I was in my comfort zone a little in Munster and now I am probably one of the most experienced lads at London Irish, which is good. I have a lot of experience playing with Muster and Ireland and it is good to try and use that.

“I think I did take on a lot of responsibility when I was here too, it was just the fact that there are more younger and inexperienced players on this team and they might look to you a bit more. Having that bit more responsibility is good and it is what I want. You get plenty of responsibility playing in a key position anyway, that comes with the territory. It is just a fresh environment and a fresh start for me and I am just really enjoying it.”

O’Leary hopes his impressive good season form continues into the Premiership, which kicks off this weekend with a glamour clash against Saracens at Twickenham.

Apart from the occasion, which he reckons will be special, O’Leary is excited about the challenge of playing in a different tournament which he described as especially competitive.

“The Premiership seems to have a lot of good, even teams,” he said, “hopefully I can get a good run of games and start enjoying my rugby. With Munster in the nine position it is very competitive and I felt I wasn’t getting enough of games. The more games I play the sharper and more confident I get. Definitely if I get a good run of games it can only benefit my form and I am looking forward to that.

“I felt last year the games I played with Munster and the contribution I made to the team was very positive. I just felt that I didn’t get enough time in the key games, so it was frustrating.

“I am happy where I am at the moment; but I am not where I want to be yet (in terms of impact). But I am on the way.”


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