Jimmy O’Brien has been knocking on the door for a while, but he has finally earned his first Ireland call-up on the back of his excellent form with Leinster this season.
aving worked with him closely over the last few years and played a key role in his development, Stuart Lancaster is not surprised to see Andy Farrell reward O’Brien.
Like Hugo Keenan, O’Brien came through the Ireland Sevens system and having impressed for Newbridge College and the Ireland U-20s along the way, the Kildare native will hope to make a big impression in camp.
The 25-year-old, who created history by becoming the first Leinster player to score four tries in the Champions Cup game against Bath last month, can play across the back-line, but Lancaster believes O’Brien is best suited to full-back.
“Consistently good would be the phrase I would use, he is consistently good, he is not just consistent,” Leinster’s senior coach said.
“He has grown in confidence, he is not young anymore, he has been involved with the squad for a long time. He has got a lot of attributes that I think will really put him in good stead in the Ireland camp.
“In terms of multi-positional, he is the classic multi-positional outside back. I do run him at 10. I would be happy to play him at 12 or 13. He has played on the wing and obviously he is excellent at 15 as well.
“He has got the ability to be a very good all-round footballer. He has obviously got his left boot, he’s fast – he has got proper top-end speed and he’s good speed endurance as well. He’s a bit like Hugo.
“You put that package together, bravery, intelligence, confidence now that has grown over the course of the last three or four years that I coached him.
“He used to be quite quiet and it’s quite a hard place to come into, Leinster, if you’re a young player trying to make a mark. He fully, fully deserves his call-up, for sure.”
As well as being remarkably versatile, which always comes in handy when it comes to getting picked in international squads, O’Brien is a smart footballer, who has been aided by his early days playing football with Eadestown.
“Because he’s a good ball player as well you could slot him in at ‘10’,” Lancaster added. “He has that level of organisation off the ball and that ability to play out the line. You look at the way we attack. There’s often different people taking the job at first receiver, different people out the back of shapes, it’s less traditional than you would probably see.”