Back surgery may end O'Connell's season


Rugby:Munster confirmed on Saturday night that Ireland secondrow Paul O’Connell will undergo surgery on his back injury “at the earliest opportunity”.

Earlier in the month the province said they would wait until the 33-year-old had seen a specialist in the new year before making the decision, but after consultation between IRFU and Munster medical staffs and O’Connell, the decision was made to go ahead with surgery.

O’Connell has not played since the round two Heineken Cup game against Edinburgh at Thomond Park in October.

O’Connell has suffered serious trouble with his back in recent seasons, and the latest operation is likely to see him miss the Six Nations at the very least, while his participation in next summer’s Lions tour to Australia is now in doubt.

The Young Munster player captained the Lions on the last tour to South ASfrica in 2009 and was high on Warren Gatland’s list of candidates to lead the touring party to Australia.

O’Connell’s career has been dogged with injury in recent years, including a nine-month absence with a groin injury that took several diagnoses.

A knee injury kept him out of last summer’s tour to New Zealand, an injury that has also affected him this season.

He returned to Ireland training ahead of the November international series, only to be ruled out when the back injury flared-up again.

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