RaboDirect PRO12
O'Connell set for Ravenhill return
ESPN Staff
August 30, 2012
Munster lock Paul O'Connell passes the ball, Munster v Leinster, Magners League Grand Final, Thomond Park, Limerick, Ireland, May 28, 2011
Munster lock Paul O'Connell is set to return from a long injury lay-off against Ulster next month © PA Photos
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Munster and Ireland lock Paul O'Connell is set to make his return from a long injury lay-off in his side's RaboDirect PRO12 clash against Ulster next month.

O'Connell has been out of action since May with a serious knee injury that he first suffered during Ireland's Six Nations clash with France earlier in the year. A long rehabilitation has followed but O'Connell, who handed the Munster captaincy to Doug Howlett last week, is on course to make his season bow, along with international team-mates including Ronan O'Gara, Keith Earls, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo, in the Ravenhill clash on September 14.

Munster team manager Niall O'Donovan told the Irish Examiner that the players managed by the Irish Rugby Football Union player welfare programme, including O'Connell, had been cleared to play in round three of the PRO12 campaign.

"It is in all our best interests to look after the players and make sure they are able to play the vital games we want them to play," O'Donovan said. "You'd love to be able to play Paul O'Connell week in week out but you can't. So you have to get a guy who is gone into his early 30s now and mind him, and it is the same with the younger guys coming through, like Peter O'Mahony, and make sure they are getting the proper pre-season and make sure they are ready to go into battle when the time comes.

"We work closely with the Irish management on when we can slot guys in and when we take them out. So they'll play a certain amount of games in the first lot of the season, but they'll have their time off as well. And they have to have their time off, otherwise they are a spent force."

Munster kick off the new season against Edinburgh on Saturday without forwards Donnacha Ryan and Peter O'Mahony who have been given an extra week to complete their conditioning. Openside flanker Niall Ronan is reportedly a fortnight away from a comeback, having been out since last Christmas with a cruciate knee ligament injury while back-row Dave O'Callaghan will be out for two to three weeks with a calf injury and lock Ian Nagle is three to five weeks away from full fitness following right shoulder surgery.

After a year on the sidelines following two knee operations, centre Troy Smith is five weeks off his comeback while fullback Felix Jones has been given a timeline of five to seven weeks to return from the left shoulder injury he suffered last season.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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