We knew Sean O'Brien wouldn't let us down with his Lions XV
"I don't think he's done enough."
Sean O'Brien has never been too shy about sticking his neck out, especially when it comes to the British & Irish Lions.
Whether it is training schedules, opposition tactics or not being afraid to talk about targeting victories, and clean sweeps, the former Leinster and Ireland flanker is as forthright as they come, in modern rugby.
O'Brien played his last Test match back in March 2019 but is backing tipping away for London Irish after overcoming a career-threatening hip injury. The surgery required on his hip, which basically left him learning how to walk all over again, cost him a World Cup place but did massively improve his standard of living.
He is showing what he can do, now, in the Premiership with the Exiles and jokes about a text message screen-shot he recently received from a mate.
"I'm still trucking. 16/1 to be on the Lions!"
"I messaged back, 'DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY! KEEP YOUR TENNER!'"
When O'Brien was joined by host Lee McKenzie and Vodafone British & Irish Lions ambassador Sam Warburton on House of Rugby UK, the modern-day Lions legends discussed possible picks for the 2021 tour to South Africa.
O'Brien and Warburton were Lions in 2013 and 2017. Teaming up one last time for the Lions' cause, McKenzie tasked O'Brien and two-time captain Warburton, to select a starting Test XV.
Both men agreed on Mako Vunipola and "shoo-in" Tadhg Furlong for starting props, and Ken Owens as hooker. The second row saw them agreeing over Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones.
The first bone of contention between Warburton and O'Brien was blindside flanker. O'Brien went for Tadhg Beirne while the former Wales captain opted for the "explosive power" of Bath & England star Sam Underhill. For No.8, Carlow's finest said:
"Toby Faletau. I don't think Billy (Vunipola) is playing well enough, and there are a few lads ahead of him that played better in the Six Nations. It's a big call, but I feel even somehow like CJ Stander had a better Six Nations than him."
O'Brien put forward Gareth Davies and Conor Murray as leading contenders for the No.9 jersey, and eventually sided with the Munster scrumhalf. And while he felt Lions coach Warren Gatland would go for Owen Farrell or Dan Biggar at No.10, Warburton selected Ireland captain Johnny Sexton.
On the wing, Warburton immediately selected Anthony Watson but he hesitated over Louis Rees-Zammit. While the Wales winger 'has to go on tour', he is not yet convinced over his defence. When push came to shove, though, he went for Rees-Zammit over Scotland's Duhan van der Merwe. O'Brien had a wing selection that he believes a lot of people are sleeping on:
"What do you think of Keith Earls? No-one has spoken about him and no-one has mentioned him on any of the teams, but he's been unbelievable."
In midfield, Warburton and O'Brien were nodding in agreement over Robbie Henshaw while Warburton went for George North, ahead of both Garry Ringrose and Jonathan Davies. O'Brien went for his former Leinster and Ireland teammate Ringrose at outside centre.
There was another tough call over the final spot - fullback - and Warburton believes Stuart Hogg is edging ahead of Liam Williams. O'Brien agreed with that as he says the Scot is 'really playing for his team'.
SEAN O'BRIEN'S LIONS XV
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
13. Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11. Keith Earls (Ireland)
10. Owen Farrell (England)
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
1. Wyn Jones (Wales)
2. Ken Owens (Wales)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Maro Itoje (England)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
6. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
7. Tom Curry (England)
8. Toby Faletau (Wales)
*Sam Warburton is promoting a cutting-edge app - launched by Vodafone UK & Ireland in partnership with the British & Irish Lions - for this summer's tour, with one of the key features being the ‘XV Selector’. It can be downloaded on the App Store or here on Google Play.
CATCH THAT EPISODE HERE: