O'Connell targets April return


Rugby: Ireland lock Paul O’Connell is targeting a return to action in April after undergoing back surgery yesterday. The former Lions captain will leave Dublin today after a procedure to correct a bulging disc that was pressing on a nerve in his lower back.

"I'm delighted with the way the operation went,” he said today. “More importantly, so too are the medical team who carried out the operation and I am very grateful to all concerned.

"My aim now is to start rehab as soon as is practicable.

“In terms of a return, I'd be looking at early April when hopefully Munster will be in contention for trophies on two fronts."

Such a timeframe would leave the secondrow in with a slim chance of making the Lions squad for the tour of Australia next summer, were he to reintegrate successfully to competitive rugby.

Currently in the first of a two-year IRFU contract, O’Connell made a surprise return for the opening rounds of the Heineken Cup in October after a seven-month lay-off due to damaged knee ligaments against France in the Six Nations.

After joining up with the Ireland camp ahead of the November internationals, his chronic back problems flared up again.

He had similar issues in 2002 that required surgery, while a reoccurrence in 2008 was managed rather than operated on.

It was initially thought a similar approach would suffice this time round, but “improvements slowed”, according to Munster, “and after further consultation it was believed more prudent for him to undergo surgery in order to make a return to match fitness.”

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