Irish Rugby
O'Connell comes through comeback match unscathed
ESPN Staff
March 13, 2013
Ireland lock Paul O'Connell, Ireland v Wales, Six Nations, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland, February 5, 2012
Paul O'Connell has handed Munster and potentially the Lions a timely boost © Getty Images
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Former British & Irish Lions skipper Paul O'Connell came through his first match in five months unscathed after he played 40 minutes for Munster 'A' against Leinster 'A' on Tuesday.

O'Connell has been sidelined since October and was forced to undergo surgery to rectify a bulging disk in his back at the end of December. He has sat out the entire Six Nations as he battled back from the surgery, but he was pleased with his run out in the inter-provincial match.

"I'm injury free but I don't know about fit. It was very enjoyable," O'Connell said. "The lads played some great rugby. Luckily enough, it was a great day, a dry ball and that makes it harder on the lungs which is exactly what I needed. It was really enjoyable and good to get the win as well. I've done plenty of fitness sessions which in some ways are harder than this.

"But it's just the intensity of getting up off the ground, of trying to be dynamic and get up and do it again five or six times in a row. That's something that's hard to replicate in training, especially in contact. So yeah, I was definitely blowing but I'm delighted. I don't feel any ill-effects now or anything. I feel good."

Munster play Harlequins on April 7 in their Heineken Cup quarter-final and O'Connell is hopeful of playing some part in that titanic clash but before that, he is focused on getting some RaboDirect PRO12 game time under his belt. O'Connell added: "The plan was to play today and see how I am tomorrow. And then I'll start planning again from there. The hope would be to be involved in the next couple of RaboDirect PRO12 games, first and foremost.

"The more games I can play the better. I think the Heineken Cup is definitely on for me. I'm available for selection anyway. The two lads (Donnacha Ryan and Donncha O'Callaghan) have been playing very well so we'll see what happens."

Munster coach Rob Penney was delighted to see O'Connell back on the field but he will not rush the 85-cap veteran back from into the first team. "The next 48 hours will determine if he plays for his club this weekend. If it is the right thing for Paul, then it's the right thing," Penney said."We'll see how he backs up. I love the guys playing their club rugby when they can.

"I'm really pleased for him that he got through 40 minutes today and looked vigorous. I was watching him closely around the contact area, the areas you need to be robust and he could have been potentially compromised but he didn't look like he was flinching at any time. He looks like he is on the mend and he is on track for a little bit more footie in the next week or so."

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