Long wait over for O'Connell
At 6.15 yesterday evening, Paul O'Connell tasted professional rugby for the first time since March 20, when he had been part of an Ireland side that lost out on a Triple Crown to Scotland.
Having successfully come through a club game for Young Munster last weekend, O'Connell appeared off the Munster bench in last night's 16-9 Magners League win against Cardiff at a foggy Thomond Park.
The former Lions captain looked fit and well in what was his first game for Munster since last January. He came on for Donncha O'Callaghan in the 56th minute and literally was seconds on the field when he took his first line-out of the night.
Within 15 minutes of his arrival, however, it was hard to see what he did as the game came close to being abandoned such was the density of the fog that settled on Thomond Park. Munster's win takes them four points clear of Scarlets, who remain in second place after being held by Leinster in Llanelli on Friday night.
"It was great to have Paul back and he showed some great touches, but he's got a bit of a way to go yet, obviously," coach Tony McGahan said afterwards.
Barring any reaction to last night, O'Connell is now poised to feature again in the Heineken Cup home tie with the Ospreys in Limerick on Sunday. Munster lead Pool 3 by a point from the Welsh side.
O'Connell had described his injury as being the most frustrating period of his life. A groin issue was eventually diagnosed as an infection of the pubic symphysis. In the course of his treatment, he underwent a lengthy series of antibiotics that left him utterly drained.
He wasn't able to start running again until mid-August and last weekend's club game for Young Munster was his first action since March -- in the meantime he missed the closing stages of Munster's Heineken Cup campaign, against Northampton and Biarritz, Ireland's tour of New Zealand and Australia, and the four Ireland Tests last month, as well as Munster's opening two rounds of European action in October.
Earlier he had expressed a wish to get a run of five games under his belt before taking any more rest -- ideally a week off -- and then getting another five games in. The only upside to O'Connell's lay-off is that eight months out of the game saves him wear and tear ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand next September.