Sean O’Brien admits one of Ireland’s toughest Six Nations challenges will be to “fill the void” left by talismanic captain Paul O’Connell’s Test retirement.
Rory Best has taken Ireland’s reins, with the likes of Leinster back-rower O’Brien likely to hold strong influence in the dressing room. Ireland open their Six Nations defence against Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, with O’Brien accepting the entire squad must adapt in lock O’Connell’s absence.
“It’s kind of good – he doesn’t stare at us and intimidate us any more!” joked O’Brien, when asked about life without O’Connell.
“But it’s obviously different not having Paulie around with the type of player he is – and it’s up to other lads to fill the void, stand up and be counted. Everyone’s stepping up, there’s been a good mix.
“Rory has passed on a lot of good messages over the last few weeks. The leadership group have to move on very quickly and drive the group, and I think that’s happening in the last two weeks.”
Read more: RTE