Ireland relief as O'Connell to play part in Munster's trophy push
Ireland's World Cup hopes received a massive boost yesterday with confirmation that second-row Paul O'Connell is on course to return to action for the defining games of Munster's campaign.
"Paul O'Connell had his injury reassessed in Dublin yesterday evening and the prediction is that he could be back training in four weeks' time," read a Munster statement yesterday.
"That, of course, would mean that if Munster were to progress to the final of either Amlin Challenge Cup or Magners League, O'Connell could be involved."
O'Connell has been given the all-clear to commit to a rehab schedule which may offer a timely return to competitive action, providing their are no unforeseen setbacks.
The Amlin Challenge Cup final, should Munster overcome Harlequins in the semi-final, could mark his return to action as it takes place on May 20, with the Magners League Grand Final taking place eight days later.
However, IRFU medical staff will convene with their Munster counterparts to ensure that O'Connell is, indeed, fit enough to resume playing after the ankle injury sustained in the Magners League victory against Leinster.
There were initial fears that O'Connell would miss the rest of the domestic season, meaning Declan Kidney would have had to wait for the August series of friendly matches to witness his talismanic forward's return to action.
The former Lions captain has already had a lengthy period on the sidelines in recent times, having missed seven months of action last year after suffering a mysterious groin injury towards the end of last year's Six Nations campaign.