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Rugby World Cup: Sean O'Brien happy for Chris Henry to jump in to ensure Ireland benefit

Sean rotating with Ulsterman to benefit Irish

By Jonathan Bradley

Sean O'Brien insists he is okay with sharing his playing time with Chris Henry if it is of benefit to Ireland's World Cup cause.

Ulster openside Henry has replaced O'Brien in two of Ireland's three games at the tournament to date - the Malone man started the other in a try-scoring performance against Romania - and the Leinster No.7 had no problems watching the conclusion of Sunday's win against Italy from the sidelines.

"You can't do anything when you're sitting on the bench and the lads that came on are more than capable of finishing off and closing out the game," said the Tullow native, who made way for Henry with just under 15 minutes remaining.

"There were no negative thoughts going through my head at that stage.

"I was happy to see the lads out there. There was a lot more energy that was needed at that stage in the last 10 or 15 minutes. The boys did well off the bench.

"It depends on the game. We've got through a lot of work out there.

"So it's either stay on and slog it out in the last 15 minutes or bring on someone who's capable of doing a job and who'll be fresh.

"Whatever benefits the team, I'd be happy with."

After what was a physical encounter with the Italians, O'Brien thinks that the tougher than expected test against the Azzurri will hold Ireland in good stead come Sunday's showdown with France.

With that contest set to decide which of the quarter-finalists top Pool D, and following comfortable successes over Romania and Canada, O'Brien replied in the affirmative when asked if his side needed their bruising head-to-head at the Olympic Stadium.

"Yeah, I think we did," he said. "I think it's really started now.

"It can do no harm for us in the long run. It was a very physical game, they came hard off the line at us and the French will do the same next week.

"We know as a group of players that nothing is going to be easy.

"We knew that Italy were going to be a different kettle of fish, especially with (Sergio) Parisse back.

"It gives them a lot of belief and he is such a leader for them but I suppose it's more about us and what we can bring to the table and we didn't do that at times.

"We know what we're coming up against next week and we know that we're going to have to improve an awful lot and make sure that we're on our game."

Indeed, such was Ireland's level of strain that they were indebted to Peter O'Mahony for a try-saving tackle on Josh Furno in the second-half of what ended up being just a seven-point win.

"It was a great tackle - a last-ditch effort," O'Brien recalled of his back-row colleague's heroics.

"It certainly had a bearing on the game with the scoreline the way it was at the end.

"Pete is one of those players who'll keep working for you and you need players pulling in those tackles in tight games like that.

"We're going to have to be a lot better and really up our game and make sure that all our basics are done really well. Then we can get excited for the week ahead."

The third member of Schmidt's starting loose forwards, Jamie Heaslip, echoed O'Brien's words of praise for Parisse.

The Italian captain was playing in just his second game since June and first of the World Cup after having a haematoma on his calf drained.

No.8 Heaslip said: "I thought Sergio had a good game, he carried very well and asked a lot of questions in defence.

"I felt we dealt with him at times but he's a good player and made good plays.

"All their players, to be honest, played very, very well and they challenged us in all facets of the game.

"We're delighted to come out with the win - but we've a lot to work on.

"It was a pretty intense, physical game and we expect no different next (against France)."

France have been impressive only in short bursts during the World Cup, but have also racked up three wins and two bonus points in the tournament, and Heaslip is under no illusions as to the difficulties the knockout specialists will pose.

"We're very happy to qualify, obviously, but we've got a big challenge now," he added.

"We'll rest up and get ready for it.

"I'm sure the management have been looking at them over the last couple of weeks, all I've seen of them is watching them through the World Cup.

"It's not going to be easy, that's for sure."

Belfast Telegraph


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