Munster hoping ban appeal can speed O'Connell return
MUNSTER are hoping Paul O'Connell will be available to play before their crucial Heineken Cup trip to Toulon in January after the province yesterday appealed the four-week suspension handed to the second-row at an ERC disciplinary hearing last week, writes Hugh Farrelly.
O'Connell was sent off in Munster's Heineken Cup victory over the Ospreys in Thomond Park on December 12 after striking Jonathan Thomas and was then banned for four weeks having been found guilty of 'dangerous play.'
That suspension will have elapsed in time for the journey to Toulon, but, having already missed most of the season with a long-term groin injury, O'Connell is badly in need of game time.
If his suspension is reduced, O'Connell may become available for Magners League clashes prior to the Toulon encounter, with Munster scheduled to play Connacht on December 26, Ulster on January 1 and Glasgow on January 8.
Although referee Christophe Berdos showed the red card for deliberate use of the elbow, it was clearly O'Connell's forearm that made contact with Thomas and video evidence shows that the second-row was not looking at the Ospreys flanker, who was pulling the Munster man back by the jersey, when he began moving his arm.
After sustaining the groin injury in Ireland's final Six Nations match against Scotland, O'Connell missed the summer tour to New Zealand and Australia as well as the four-game November Series.
Prior to his suspension, the second-row had played just 40 minutes for Young Munster against Shannon in the All-Ireland League and 25 minutes off the bench during Munster's Magners League victory over the Cardiff Blues on December 4.