Sean O’Brien vigilant on growing French threat

The sight of Louis Picamoles rampaging around Twickenham last weekend was a warning to Ireland of France’s burgeoning threat and Sean O’Brien is among those who believes ‘Les Bleus’ will be more dangerous than ever when they face Ireland at the Rugby World Cup.

Picamoles lost much of last season with a lung infection and has thus played little for France this last year, but he was a colossus against England last Saturday and gave an exhibition of forceful attacking rugby from number eight in an imposing French pack.

“It was a weird kind of game,” said O’Brien at the launch of Leinster’s latest home and alternate Canterbury jerseys.

“Picamoles was leading the charge for them for the majority of the game, getting them over the gainline, but they played some nice rugby too. For the French, they’ll only improve going into this World Cup.

“They’re going to be a very dangerous side obviously. They have threats everywhere and an incredible bunch of talent. Picamoles wasn’t really involved much in the last Six Nations so he obviously wants to prove a point. He started on the right foot anyway.” O’Brien was less conspicuous on the front foot for Ireland that same day against Scotland, but he did give a poaching masterclass before being demobbed with the rest of Joe Schmidt’s squad for a week split between some S&C work with Leinster and time off.

Unlike other sides who have decamped to destinations as diverse as Denver and Doha, Ireland have spent the summer warm-up season at home – literally on their days off – and O’Brien is confident that the approach will serve them well in England.

“It does suit us and the science behind the training methods and fitness sessions we’re doing, all that type of thing, has been spot on. From a player’s point of view, it’s been very, very good that way and the way we’ve been looked after as well.” Ireland’s performance against the Scots was less ideal, however. Ireland’s captain on the day admitted as much and knows all too well the reception Schmidt will have for them when they reconvene in the team analysis room next week.

“There is a fear there that if you make a mistake you might not get a second chance. That’s his philosophy.

“That’s the pressure he has on us to perform and make sure we do our role as best we can. If you don’t do that, you know you’re going to get some kind of reaction from him.”

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