Sean O’Brien made a return to international rugby last month in Ireland’s win over Canada at Aviva Stadium, proving his fitness and in the process claiming a starting spot against New Zealand the following week – the rematch after Ireland’s historic win in Chicago.

The All Blacks came out on top on that occasion, a match in which O’Brien says he “emptied the tank” after playing the full 80 minutes.

The following week a hip flexor injury kept him out of the thrilling win against Michael Cheika’s Australia.

Sean OBrien

“It was frustrating,” the Tullow man admitted, speaking to the media ahead of Leinster Rugby’s Champions Cup match away to Northampton Saints,”but I got straight back in here (Leinster Rugby HQ) and started rehabbing. I was looking forward to this week. I’m pleased to be back involved.”

O’Brien has been named in the Leinster starting XV to face Northampton on Friday night and the flanker believes Leo Cullen’s men are better-placed to mount an assault on Europe this season after a disappointing campaign last year.

“I think we’ve improved an awful lot. I think we’ve a stronger squad. A lot of the young guys came on an awful lot. I think we’re in a better place this year. These two weeks are obviously massive. These two weeks define where we’re going for the rest of the year.

“I think there’s a lot of belief in the side now. We’ve been playing a nice brand of rugby. Hopefully we can show some of that this weekend.”

Leinster face Northampton in Aviva Stadium on Saturday, 17th December. Tickets are on sale now from €30 at

Leinster v Northampton