Ireland and Leinster's Sean O'Brien reveals how he has changed his game to avoid injuries

Flanker has sustained injuries in recent seasons but has made tweaks to his approach

Sean O'Brien, Ireland, rugby

Ireland’s Sean O'Brien ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Sean O'Brien says the rise of other big ball carriers and his own conscious decision to alter his style have modified the way he plays rugby.

The Leinster and Ireland flanker has suffered injury setbacks during his career but as he told Off The Ball and former provincial and international team-mate Brian O'Driscoll, he has made changes to elements of his game that can reduce the number of collisions and resulting injuries he sustains.

"I've started to tip on more passes and be more of a link man and not ploughing stupidly into breakdowns that are maybe dead," he said.

"I'm trying to pick my moments now in games where I'm being more effective now for the team."

Leinster's Jamie Heaslip celebrates his try with Sean O'Brien ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

"You sniff out the opportunities maybe a phase or two later. Probably earlier on in my career I was trying to get to every breakdown and try and take a ball, whereas now I'm selecting ones that you think you can be most effective at rather than going in and battling when it could be a dead ruck."

With other powerhouse ball carriers available for province and country, O'Brien added that having the likes of CJ Stander alongside him spreads the load and allows him to concentrate on other aspects of his game.

"I probably earlier on in my career was always looking to carry the ball. I still obviously look to carry the ball but there are other people who are in there waiting for it already - the likes of CJ. He shows up a lot to carry. Sean Cronin and Jamie [Heaslip] as well," he said.

"The opportunities still arise for me to carry but probably not as often with those lads in the team."

In terms of the potential of taking short sabbaticals from rugby some day in order to preserve the body in the way that some New Zealand players have done successfully, the 29 year old isn't against the idea.

"If I had a run of games, it definitely would be something especially leading into a World Cup or something like that. [David] Pocock was taking it now after his stint in Japan and obviously [Richie] McCaw had done it as well. It stood to him pretty well," said O'Brien.

As Leinster enjoy a strong season in Europe and in the Guinness Pro 12, O'Brien praised the impact ex-England head coach Stuart Lancaster has made after joining Leinster head coach Leo Cullen's coaching team.

"They're working very well together," he said of the two coaches.

He also praised the young generation at Leinster like Tadgh Furlong, Adam Byrne and Rory O'Loughlin, saying that he is not surprised by their respective progress having seen them develop at close quarters.