Fears mount over O'Connell fitness for Irish tour
PAUL O'CONNELL'S participation in Ireland's summer tour was plunged into doubt yesterday as the full extent of his injury emerged.
As expected, the Munster captain -- who has not played since Ireland's final Six Nations match against Scotland on March 20 -- was ruled out of Sunday's Heineken Cup semi-final against Biarritz in San Sebastian.
Coach Tony McGahan linked the second-row's persistent groin injury to 'Osteitis Pubis' (a condition that affects the joint at the front of the pubic bone) and confirmed O'Connell had been to see a specialist in Liverpool.
"It's a very mysterious symptom that he has and we really can't get any real clarity on it," said McGahan.
Osteitis Pubis is a common complaint among sportspeople and contributed to the early retirement of former Tipperary All Star footballer Declan Browne.
However, out-half Ronan O'Gara confirmed that O'Connell feels the injury is improving and McGahan is hopeful his captain will be able to train next week.
"We've tried a number of different remedies to get at where it is. We hopefully have a handle on it. The season and time is running out, whether he gets back we'll have to wait and see. Hopefully, next week."
Ireland play the Barbarians in Thomond Park on Friday, June 4, followed by tour matches against New Zealand (June 12), the Maoris (June 19) and Australia (June 26).
Meanwhile, Ulster are resisting moves from the Stormers to bring prop BJ Botha back to South Africa for the remainder of the Super 14 season. Botha has been with Ulster since 2008 and is under contract for another year but South African media claim Ulster have been approached by the Stormers to secure an early release -- adding to speculation that he would return home in time to prepare for next year's World Cup.
"As far as we are concerned, BJ Botha is contracted until the end of next season and we do not see him being released before then," said an Ulster spokesperson last night.