Stephen Ferris reckons that Sean O’Brien’s absence from the Ireland squad against France could have been down to the player himself.

The Leinster back row played against England and Scotland but following a sub-par performance against Italy was left out of the match-day 23 for last Sunday’s win at the Aviva Stadium.

His place was taken by Josh van der Flier, who was injured during the 26-14 victory over Les Bleus. 

Jack Conan replaced his Leinster team-mate and scored Ireland's third try. 

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Today Dan Leavy was recalled to the training squad, and asked about the Lions wing-forward, scrum coach Greg Feek said: "Sean O'Brien has been training and working really hard, I suppose that does put him in contention.

"I think those sort of things are a natural progression, who is in line? I suppose Dan is there as well so we'll make our minds up.

"Obviously, Peter [O'Mahony] covered there later in the game and did all right too so there's a few options there but I think at this stage we'll see how that group fits together this afternoon and we'll go from there."

Speaking before the France game, Schmidt said: "The problem for Sean is that he hasn't really had too much rugby and he was not happy with his performance against Italy.

"He came on against England and I thought he made a really positive impression and there's a temptation that you bring him in and he makes another positive impression again, and I thought he did well against Scotland as well. So it's not like he's not in our thinking."

And former Ireland international Ferris reckons there could be more to Schmidt’s decision to drop O’Brien than simply his form.

"Maybe Seanie has had a quiet word to Joe himself," Ferris, capped 35 times for Ireland, told the RTÉ Rugby podcast.

"This might not be a Joe Schmidt decision; this might be a Sean O’Brien decision. He might have said, ‘Joe, look, I’m just not 100% there, I need to work harder’ and that’s the kind of person Sean is too.

"I think there’s a lot of respect between him and Joe Schmidt. If there is any decision that needs to be made between each other they can figure it out usually.

"We all know that Seanie is a favourite of Joe Schmidt, so maybe it was Seanie that went to him with the advice of trying to get a bit more fitness under his belt before the season ends."

Ferris and O'Brien at the 2011 World Cup

O’Brien, 32, missed out on Leinster and Ireland’s winning runs last year with a series of injuries and Ferris feels that the most important thing at this stage is that the Carlow man, the European Player of the Year in 2011, gets himself right for the World Cup in September.

"I do feel for him given that he was parachuted in to the squad and now he seems to be parachuted out," added Ferris.

"I met him in Dublin at an event about 10 days ago and he wasn’t out having a few beers in Belfast [with the squad], he was working hard on his fitness with Leinster.

"He didn’t give too much away, he just said he needs to work hard getting himself back to full fitness.

"A fully fit Sean O’Brien steps into, generally, every team in the world so hopefully he gets himself right for the World Cup warm-ups and he gets himself on the plane to Japan because he is a huge asset to Irish rugby and a good man to have around the squad too."

Meanwhile, Ferris believes that Saturday's game may come down to who needs the result more, in this case, it's the hosts, who are on a 13-match winning run and on the verge of a grand slam. 

"What’s on the line for this for Ireland," asked Ferris.

"You get a result, you need a crazy result with Scotland beating England. Joe Schmidt said after the French game that realistically they are not going to win the championship.

"So it’s just about putting in a performance, trying to get the victory for Ireland, trying to keep a bit of momentum going towards the World Cup warm-up games whereas for Wales, this is everything.

"They will do anything in their power to make sure they win this match and create more history in a Welsh jersey.

"Do they think they are unbeatable?

"Probably, the run they are on, the results they’ve had, why wouldn’t they? And that just breeds more and more confidence."

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