Thursday 19 October 2017

Ireland dreams taking back seat to Munster mission -- O'Donnell

Munster's Tommy O'Donnell
Munster's Tommy O'Donnell

John Fallon

Tommy O'Donnell looks set to add to his two Irish caps in the upcoming Six Nations, but the only priority for the Tipperary man at this stage is helping Munster beat Edinburgh on Sunday.

The 26-year-old from Cahir was Munster's player of the year last season and it was no surprise when he went on to make his Ireland debut against the USA in the summer and then scored his first international try a week later against Canada.

But a serious knee injury in September sidelined him for three months, forcing him out of the autumn internationals.

However, O'Donnell has been in superb form since he returned for Munster, announcing his arrival back on the big stage by setting up JJ Hanrahan's last-gasp winner in Perpignan in the Heineken Cup.

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He got his first full 80 minutes of rugby under his belt away to Ulster and then played all of last weekend's 20-7 win in Gloucester.

And with Sean O'Brien ruled out until the end of the season, O'Donnell looks poised for more Test action as he and Ulster's Chris Henry battle for the Ireland No 7 shirt.

However, O'Donnell, one of 24 forwards included in yesterday's extended Irish squad, is not looking that far ahead -- Thomond Park on Sunday is his main focus.

"There is a bit of a carrot there as well but I'm not going to put any words in anyone's mouth. I'm going to let my talking be done on the pitch. And if the coach wants to pick me, he will pick me," he says about his Irish prospects.

He knows another big display on Sunday will strengthen his hand but the prospect of securing a home quarter-final by beating a side which shocked Munster in the opening round in Murrayfield is the main incentive.

"The element of revenge is there but more importantly the home quarter-final would mean a lot to Munster, it would mean a huge thing to Limerick and to Thomond Park to have us at home again after a year away. It is a carrot which we have to chase," he says.

"The first thing will be to get a win on Sunday and see how high up that table we can get and hopefully then a kind draw and we will see where we will go from there."

O'Donnell (pictured, above) believes that a huge Munster following on Sunday can play its part in achieving the win -- he acknowledges that the big travelling support the Reds had in Kingsholm last Saturday was inspiring.

"We defended really well after half-time and the crowd that travelled gave us a great boost. The lads afterwards were talking about it when we bundled them over the line down near our five-metre line, how the crowd were nearly in on top of us," he says.

"The stewards were trying to keep them back over the barriers and you get a massive boost from that. It is the kind of thing that Munster is built on, the fans, that integrity and discipline in defence, that's what it is all about."

Irish Independent

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