County champion

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Versatile Steve O’Brien, who is equally at home and effective in the back row or playing in the three-quarters, played four games at inside centre for Hampshire, scoring three tries in the process.

He is the first county team back to pick up the award since 1996 and, it is believed, the first Jersey player ever to receive the accolade.

The 25-year-old from Dublin, who has lived in the Island for eight years, received the news in a letter from Hampshire RFU on Saturday.

He admitted: ‘It was quite a surprise.

It had never crossed my mind but I am delighted.

It is good recognition for Island rugby as well.’ Although the county season started well with a comprehensive victory over a Sussex Development XV (74-24), Hampshire did not perform so well in the County Championship, losing against Dorset and Wiltshire (38-31), Somerset (42-22) and Surrey (34-22).

‘The games didn’t quite go to plan.

We had a good half in each of them but couldn’t sustain it.

We hadn’t really trained together that much as we all come from different clubs.’ O’Brien hopes to be involved with the county again next season: ‘If you win four games you reach the County Championship final at Twickenham.

That is the ultimate aim and would be a massive achievement.’ He is also excited about the prospect of leading Jersey into London South-West Division II after last season’s impressive league campaign.

‘I am looking forward to the season and hope we can build on the success of last year – with the exception of the Siam Cup which we must put behind us – and look to do the best we can in the new league.

‘We have played a few of the teams in the past so it is not as if we are stepping into the unknown.

Several of the Hampshire County side play for Portsmouth so I am aware of what they can do.

‘Obviously the league will be the main focus, but it is great to be back in the Intermediate Cup and there is no reason why we shouldn’t have a good run in that, we have the players.’ And he is looking forward to the extra responsibility of being captain, wherever he is chosen to play: ‘It will be good for me and help my game expand and improve.

Mr preferred position is back row but I will do whatever is best for the team.’ Jersey Rugby Club coach Dai Burton said: ‘Steve deserves it.

He has a had a good season.

Whatever position he has played for us he has contributed at a high level.

‘Although they say you are only as good as your last game and it is his ten minutes in the Siam Cup that I remember him for most clearly,’ the coach joked, referring to O’Brien’s ten minutes in the sin bin during the unexpected Siam Cup defeat at home to Guernsey.

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