O'Connell sets sights on a return to action in April
That process worked again this season up to a point, O’Connell returning for Munster’s first two Heineken Cup games, before it flared again.
“The big thing is you always wonder should you have gone for an operation first and foremost, but an operation on the back is never something you want to rush into. Having a history of getting it right before without an operation, we said we would try that again. Unfortunately it didn’t work.”
O’Connell went under the surgeon’s knife on New Year’s Eve. At no stage did the 33-year-old feel his career was threatened.
“It’s always a big deal when you get a back operation but the medical staff have been very happy with how it went and don’t think playing again will be an issue. I’ll certainly be back, when that will be I’m not sure, probably somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks, so we’ll see.”
O’Connell expects to be undergoing physio and rehab within five weeks, before running after a further four or five weeks, followed by some conditioning. The possibility of returning via an AIL game or two with Young Munster, as he’s done before, will not be feasible due to player eligibility rules.
But whatever about Young Munster or the Lions, a possible Heineken Cup quarter-final is a viable target, depending on his mates. The man with whom he shared a tournament record for combined appearances in the secondrow, Donncha O’Callaghan, vowed: “He’ll be back and he’ll come back at a good time for us hopefully.”
Paul O'Connell Injury timeline
O’Connell is ruled out of Munster’s post-Six Nations campaign after suffering a groin injury which ultimately sidelines him from the summer tour to New Zealand and Australia as well.
In his second comeback match against the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup at Thomond Park, O’Connell is sent off by Christophe Berdos for a retaliatory punch at Jonathan Thomas and is suspended for four weeks.
O’Connell suffers ligament damage in Munster’s league win over Leinster at Thomond Park and is sidelined for another three weeks.
O’Connell is ruled out of the rest of the Six Nations, and initially for six weeks, with a knee injury which he sustained in the draw away to France, thereby ruling him out of the Scotland and England games.
After three comeback games for Munster, including their quarter-final defeat at home to Ulster, O’Connell is ruled out of the summer tour to New Zealand as his knee injury fails to recover. November 2012
Having ended a seven-month absence, accentuated by a back problem, by starting both of Munster’s opening Heineken Cup games, O’Connell is in line for a return to Irish colours against the Springboks. But having trained without apparent problems on the first two days of the squad’s camp in Carton House, his back seizes up and he is ruled out three days before the game.
O’Connell is ruled out until the New Year pending a further review of his back with a specialist.
O’Connell is ruled out until at least April after undergoing back surgery.