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'I'd like to liken him to the next Ian Whitten': Exeter confirm signing of Sean O'Brien

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Exeter boss Rob Baxter is hoping that his latest little known signing, the 23-year-old midfielder Sean O’Brien from Connacht, can go on and have a similar impact at the Chiefs as veteran Irishman Ian Whitten has had in the last decade. It was 2012 when Baxter recruited Whitten from Ulster and the soon-to-be 34-year-old centre went on to play an integral part in the Exeter title-winning campaign of recent vintage.

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Now O’Brien, who has arrived this week in Devon, has become the latest outside-the-frontline signing typical of the Chiefs’ style of recruitment and the Exeter boss has high hopes it will turn out a success.

“He looks to me like a very exciting young player, on the fringe of really breaking through to the Connacht team,” explained Baxter at his weekly media session ahead of this Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership clash with Northampton.  

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“Interestingly enough once we started talking to him about coming and he had agreed to come he broke into the Connacht first team with a couple of injuries and with Bundee Aki getting his ban and it has been really great to watch him play more than we have been able to watch him perform because he has performed really well, he has improved with more game time. 

“To me, he looks to have got a lot of really good attributes. We like the things that make him selectable and the things that make guys selectable first and foremost is that they work hard, they stay on their toes, they get involved in the game, they defend very well. 

“He ticks a lot of those boxes for us so we can see a lot of reasons to pick him and a lot of reasons for him to grow and develop over a number of seasons. I would like to liken him to the next Ian Whitten. If he does anything like Ian has done it will prove to be a great signing and I certainly think he has got that potential.”

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O’Brien is Exeter’s second overseas signing ahead of the 2021/22 season following last month’s recruitment of 135kg Kiwi prop Josh Iosefa-Scott. Neither are household names but that is the way that Baxter likes it. “That is what you have to be like, you have to be prepared to look at an awful lot of players and keep your eyes open and not discount any possibility. 

“We have never been a team that has only looked around and tried to look for international players or frontline players at other sides, frontline players in Super Rugby. We tended to pick up guys from probably outside front line squads quite a lot but that is just a little bit of a different way of us doing some of our recruitment. It has worked in the past. I don’t see any reason why it won’t continue to work in the future.”

  

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'I'd like to liken him to the next Ian Whitten': Exeter confirm signing of Sean O'Brien

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