O'Connell to return in Munster A match
Paul O'Connell grapples for possession with Kris Burton. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Rugby:Paul O’Connell is set to make his competitive return next Tuesday when he lines out for Munster in an A interprovincial against Leinster at the University of Limerick Bowl (2.0). The Irish secondrow trained with his club Young Munster on Tuesday night and took part in a contact session.Munster rugby confirmed that he would take some part in the game against Leinster A as he steps up his recovery. The 2009 Lions captain has been frustrated by injuries this season, making just two appearances for the province in the Heineken Cup; the latest of which - he was previously sidelined for five months with a knee injury - saw him undergo back surgery for a bulging disc at the end of last year. A mid-April return was the initial medical prognosis but the Irish secondrow will be delighted to have rehabilitated a little quicker.
He returned to training with Munster last month and acted as a water boy during the province’s recent draw with the Ospreys at Thomond Park. Munster coach Rob Penney would be delighted if O’Connell can prove his fitness and not suffer any adverse reaction to the back problem, particularly in the light of the upcoming Heineken Cup quarter-final against Harlequins at the Stoop next month.
While his return comes a little late to be considered for Ireland’s final game against Italy in the Six Nations Championship on Saturday week, he might be in a position over the coming month to give Lions coach warren Gatland a gentle nudge in terms of forcing his way into consideration for the summer tour to Australia.
Gatland was forwards’ coach when the Lions toured South Africa in 2009 with O’Connell as captain and the two share a very good rapport.