Saturday 27 December 2014

Huge blow for Ireland as Paul O'Connell ruled out

Duncan Bech

Published 07/11/2012 | 18:08

5 November 2012; Ireland's Paul O'Connell in action during squad training ahead of their side's Autumn International match against South Africa on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

IRELAND'S hopes of a much-needed win against South Africa this weekend have suffered a severe blow after Paul O'Connell was ruled out through injury.

The inspirational second row has missed much of the opening period of the season with knee trouble. But he also suffered a back injury in training this week according to a statement from the IRFU.

The union’s statement added that the Munster man, “took a full part in the squad sessions on Monday and Tuesday, but suffered a reaction and will not be fit for selection for this weekend’s game.”

There remains some hope that Ireland’s vice-captain will be available again for the visit of Argentina later this month. O’Connell will consult a specialist on the problem this week before the IRFU release a further update.

"Paul will see a specialist in the coming days and an update will be issued in due course," the union said.

The loss of O'Connell is a bitter blow to Ireland, who had already seen Brian O'Driscoll, Sean O'Brien, Rob Kearney and Rory Best ruled out of all three autumn matches.

In addition, Stephen Ferris is struggling with an ankle injury and at best will feature only in the final game against Argentina.

The absence of O'Connell, Lions captain in South Africa three years ago, has left a leadership vacuum for the Springbok Test with O'Driscoll and Best already in the treatment room.

A new captain will be confirmed at tomorrow's team announcement with either number eight Jamie Heaslip or fly-half Jonathan Sexton filling the role.

Only yesterday Ireland's management had revealed their expectation that O'Connell would recover from his back problem, but now they being forced to delve even deeper into their playing resources.

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