Seán O'Brien (rugby union, born 1987)

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Seán O'Brien
Sean O'Brien 2015 RWC.jpg
O'Brien playing for Ireland during the 2015 Rugby World Cup
Birth nameSeán Kevin O'Brien
Date of birth (1987-02-14) 14 February 1987 (age 33)
Place of birthCarlow, Ireland
Height1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight108 kg (17.0 st; 238 lb)
SchoolTullow Community School
UniversityUniversity College Dublin
Griffith College Dublin
Rugby union career
Position(s) Flanker, Number 8
Current team London Irish
Youth career
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
UCD ()
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
London Irish
Correct as of 6 March 2020
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
2013, 2017
Ireland U21
Ireland U20
Ireland Wolfhounds
British and Irish Lions

Correct as of 16 March 2019

Seán Kevin O'Brien (born 14 February 1987) is an Irish professional rugby union player for English Premiership Rugby side London Irish. He previously represented home province Leinster, and internationally he played for Ireland and toured twice with the British and Irish Lions. O'Brien can play across the back-row, though he primarily plays as an openside flanker.

Professional career[edit]


O’Brien made his Leinster debut against Cardiff Blues in September 2008 in the Celtic League. He made his Heineken Cup debut against Castres Olympique in December 2008. He did not feature for Leinster in the 2009 Heineken Cup Final, but evidence of O’Brien’s emergence as one of the most exciting young back-row forwards in Europe came in the form of strong interest from France before Christmas of 2010. The Irish Rugby Football Union moved quickly and O’Brien agreed a new three-year deal with Leinster the following January.

Sean O'Brien in Leinster gear.

O'Brien was in outstanding form for Leinster during the pool stages of the 2010–11 Heineken Cup, and was an integral part of the team that beat Northampton Saints to win the 2011 Heineken Cup Final. In 2012 O'Brien helped Leinster win the 2012 Heineken Cup Final, scoring a try as Leinster beat Ulster. In January 2014, O'Brien signed a new two-year deal with Leinster.[1] On 21 December 2015, O'Brien signed a new three-year contract with Leinster.[2]

London Irish[edit]

O'Brien joined English Premiership side London Irish, where former Ireland head coach Declan Kidney and assistant coach Les Kiss are director of rugby and head coach respectively, in December 2019, after the completion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.[3]

Ireland and British and Irish Lions[edit]

In 2007, he was a member of the Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winning squad. O'Brien was called up to the Ireland team for the 2009 November Tests, and he gained his first cap when he came on as a substitute against Fiji at the RDS Arena on 21 November 2009.[4] He also came on as a replacement against South Africa in a 15–10 win on 28 November 2009.[5] He came off the bench against Italy in the 2010 Six Nations Championship, but was dropped afterwards. He was injured during Ireland's 2010 Summer Tests, but won his first start against Samoa in the 2010 Autumn Tests, though he did not feature in any other games. O'Brien started every game for Ireland during the 2011 Six Nations, winning the Man of the Match award against Italy. He came third in the 2011 Six Nations Player of the Championship losing out to the winner Andrea Masi.[6] He was selected in Ireland's final 30-man squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. O'Brien started against Australia, Russia, Italy and Wales during Ireland's World Cup campaign, scoring a try against Russia and winning the Man-of-the-Match award against Italy. In the final 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool D match, O'Brien punched Pascal Papé in the first minute of the win over France. The incident went unnoticed by the match officials, and O'Brien later was named man of the match.[7][8] The win earned Ireland top pool placement, and a quarter-final against Argentina. O'Brien was later cited by World Rugby, and received a one-game ban (reduced from the recommended minimum of two for mitigating factors including an "exemplary disciplinary record"), meaning he was unable to play in the quarter-final.[9]

In May 2019 it was confirmed that O’Brien would miss the 2019 Rugby World Cup due to a hip injury.[10] After joining London Irish in 2020 O'Brien said that he would love to play for Ireland again but he is aware of the unwritten rule in Irish rugby regarding players based overseas not being selected for the national team and he doesn't see this being any different for himself. [11]


On 25 May 2011, O'Brien was named ERC European Player of the Year following a season where Leinster were Heineken Cup champions.[12] He was one of five players shortlisted from the 24 Heineken Cup and 20 Amlin Challenge Cup teams that included Leinster teammates Jamie Heaslip and Isa Nacewa.[13]

On 15 August 2011, O'Brien was awarded the Guinness/Rugby Writers of Ireland player of the year and received his award at a function in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.[14]

Personal life[edit]

In September 2014 he bought Bellamy’s Pub in Ballsbridge with Leinster team mates Rob Kearney, David Kearney and Jamie Heaslip. After an extensive refurbishment it was reopened as “The Bridge 1859”.[15][16] Since 2018 O'Brien has been in a relationship with Sarah Rowe. [17][18]


In June 2019, O'Brien was named by the Irish Independent as the Leinster player under investigation following an incident in a Dublin pub on the night of their PRO14 final celebrations; O'Brien was accused of urinating on a member of the public while inside the premises.[19]


  1. ^ "Sean O'Brien fends off France and signs two-year Leinster contract". Irish Independent. 16 January 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Sean O'Brien commits future to Leinster by signing new three year deal". Irish Independent. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  3. ^ "Sean O'Brien: Ireland and Leinster flanker to join London Irish in December". BBC Sport. 11 February 2019. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Ireland 41–6 Fiji". RTÉ Sport. 21 November 2009. Archived from the original on 24 November 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2009.
  5. ^ "Ireland 15–10 South Africa". BBC Sport. 28 November 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  6. ^ "Masi scoops Six Nations award". ESPN Scrum. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Ireland's Sean O'Brien punches Pascal Pape in first minute of Rugby World Cup win over France before he's named man of the match". 11 October 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  8. ^ Sean O'Brien's Brutal Punch on Pape!! RWC 2015 on YouTube[dead link]
  9. ^'Brien_(Ireland).pdf
  10. ^ "Ireland suffer Rugby World Cup injury blow as Sean O'Brien is ruled out". Guaridan. 26 May 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  11. ^ "Zebo's Irish snub sharpens O'Brien's Premiership focus". 12 August 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Kitson, Robert (25 May 2011). "Sean O'Brien of Leinster named European Player of the Year". Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  13. ^ "Sean O'Brien lands ERC accolade". RTÉ News. 25 May 2011. Archived from the original on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  14. ^ "O'Brien named writers' Player of the Year". RTÉ Sport. 15 August 2011. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  15. ^ "Opening the bridge: Irish rugby players Rob & Dave Kearney, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien open Dublin pub The Bridge 1859 today". 25 September 2014. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  16. ^ "The Bar is Now Open - Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip officially open 'The Bridge 1859' in Ballsbridge". 2 October 2014. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Revealed: Irish rugby star Sean O'Brien is dating Mayo footballer Sarah Rowe, one of the GAA's fastest rising stars". 7 July 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  18. ^ "Sean O'Brien lines out with GAA star girlfriend Sarah Rowe at star-studded Leinster Awards Ball: all the pictures". 29 April 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Irish star Sean O'Brien in probe by IRFU amid allegations of 'incident in pub'". Irish Independent. 9 June 2019. Retrieved 15 June 2019.

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