The return of Sean O’Brien is “a huge boost” for Leinster as they prepare for their crunch Champions Cup quarter-final against Bath, according to head coach Matt O’Connor.

O’Brien was named in Leinster’s starting XV on Friday, one of nine changes for the province, who welcome back a number of their Ireland internationals.

The sight of the Tullow Tank in the final game of the Six Nations, back to near his rampaging best in scoring two tries in a man-of-the-match performance against Scotland, was a welcome sight for province and country alike.

Speaking ahead of the quarter-final, O’Connor highlighted the influence that the Carlow native could bring to bear on the game, as he continues his recovery from long-term injury.

“He’s a competitor, and he fights for everyone, and he expects the same out of the bloke next to him,” O’Connor said.

“It certainly takes the pressure off Jamie [Heaslip] in a leadership capacity, because he knows that he’ll have Seanie right there beside him, regardless of the minutes or the circumstances.

“He’s been fantastic this week. I thought his form against Scotland, and throughout the Six Nations – he got better and better with every minutes he player, and to have him back, relatively fresh, for us, at this stage of the season, is a huge bonus.”

"We’re going to have to make sure that we’re certainly on our game for the entire 80" - Matt O'Connor

Looking ahead to Leinster’s opponents, O’Connor spoke about the changes that had taken place since he faced Bath during his time with Leicester.

“They restructured a lot of stuff,” he said. “They changed their coaching staff. They recruited heavily, and they’ve probably got the most talented young English squad in the Premiership by some distance.

“They’ve done very well in relation to getting a few boys across from London Irish, because they had good ties with the academy there. They’re building nicely. They’re a good side.

“Their forwards have been around for a while, they’ve got a pretty experienced pack, and a very, very dangerous back line.

“So, from our end, we’re going to have to make sure that we’re certainly on our game for the entire 80.”

Bath go into the game with first- and second-choice tight-heads Henry Thomas and Davey Wilson, but O’Connor insisted they would still pose a problem in the scrum and lineout.

“[Thomas and Wilson] were a match for anybody, but the dynamic of that changes a little bit with what they’ll have to select this week.

“Paul James will play: he’s a very, very experienced guy, who has played a lot against Leinster, and out guys know him pretty well. And [Nick] Auterac’s a very talented guy on the loose-head side. So they’ve got threat there.”

With the exception of Kane Douglas, who misses the game having failed to recover from a back-hamstring problem, Leinster go into the game with quite strong a hand from which to pick. O’Connor said that his side had been less affected by Ireland’s Six Nations campaign this year than last.

“The Test lads have come back, in a very good mental state, obviously, off the back of the success they’ve had with Ireland. And thankfully, in a lot better place than we were this time last year,” he said.

“The Six Nations took a pretty physical toll on the lads last year, especially the last game against France, which beat up a lot of the guys.”