Sport Rugby

Sunday 17 December 2017

O’Connell ready to roar back into Lions frame

Paul O'Connell will make his competitive return for Munster 'A' next Tuesday
Paul O'Connell will make his competitive return for Munster 'A' next Tuesday
Conor George

Conor George

Paul O'Connell will make his competitive return for Munster 'A' in the humble surrounds of the UL Bowl next Tuesday in a desperate bid to revive his claims for the Lions tour.

The talismanic second-row, who hasn't played since last October due to a recurring back problem, has recently returned to full-contact training with Munster and hopes to ease his way back into action in a clash with Leinster 'A'.

If O'Connell comes through Tuesday's outing (kick-off 2.0), his training will be further stepped up with a view to playing for the senior side in their Pro12 League game against Connacht in Cork on March 23.

The former Lions captain, who trained with his Young Munster club on Tuesday night, is also hoping to feature for Munster in their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on April 7.

The Munster powerhouse will be trying to force his way into Warren Gatland's Lions plans for the summer tour to Australia – a squad which will be named on April 30.

Meanwhile, Peter O'Mahony has every confidence in Paddy Jackson's ability to face up to anything the French throw at him this weekend.

It is obvious France coach Philippe St Andre will target the 21-year-old out-half in an effort to unsettle him and, consequently, Ireland. Jackson starts just his second senior international match tomorrow, but O'Mahony feels he is more than capable of withstanding what will be a ferocious French onslaught.

According to the Munster man, the out-half has all the attributes needed to succeed. He only has to believe in himself and take confidence from the belief his team-mates have in him.

"All Paddy has to do is back himself. That's it," said O'Mahony. "He doesn't need advice from me. I'll put my hand on his shoulder and tell him: 'I'll be there for you kid, no matter what happens'.

"If Dusautoir is tearing out of a line-up down his channe, I'll be shoulder-to-shoulder with Paddy.

"And if he finds himself in a ruck, I'll assure him that I'll be there to back him up.

"France will have a game plan to try and upset Paddy. It would be silly not to try and upset a guy winning just his second cap," added O'Mahony. "Paddy can take care of himself, though. He's a good footballer, a brave lad and an excellent distributor."

Jackson was confirmed as Ireland's starting out-half for tomorrow, with Ian Madigan sitting on the bench as back-up. The Ireland squad is completed by Munster's Stephen Archer, who was named as the replacement tight-head prop.

Irish Independent

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