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O'Connell return a mystery

MYSTERY still surrounds when Munster's Paul O'Connell will actually line out again for the province.

NEW coach Rob Penney has insisted since he took over in the summer that he will leave it to O'Connell to declare when he is ready to return from a knee injury picked up in May.

It is now unlikely that O'Connell will play in Paris this weekend when Munster begin their Heineken Cup campaign against Racing Metro in Stade de France - even though his return had appeared imminent just before the start of the season.

"He is under no pressure and we are under no pressure to get him right. He is just going to let us know when he is ready to go and we'll react to that. He'll be ready when he is ready," Penney has said.

A medial knee ligament injury ruled him out of Ireland's tour to New Zealand but a timeline for his return did not emerge.

O'Connell worked hard during the close season to regain fitness and at the launch of the Pro12 in mid-August he was confident that he would be back sooner rather than later, but it is now five months since he has played.