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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 4 April, 2020

'Not the Roy of the Rovers story people think it was' - O'Connell on Lions arm-break

The Ireland captain played the final stages of the tourists’ first Test win with a double arm fracture.

Paul O'Connell, with an ice-pack on his injured arm, reflects on the Lions' first Test win over Australia.
Paul O'Connell, with an ice-pack on his injured arm, reflects on the Lions' first Test win over Australia.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

WHEN AUSTRALIA REFLECTED on their first Test defeat to the Lions during the summer, they must have noted Paul O’Connell’s double arm fracture and thought ‘At least we won’t see him for a while’.

Five months on and O’Connell has recovered sufficiently from his tour-ending injury to feature four times for Munster and once for Ireland. On Saturday, the lock will lead Ireland out as captain.

O’Connell, speaking today at the Irish team announcement, reflected on an injury that probably ranks third on a recent list of knocks that has limited his playing time in the last year and a half. Going into the final stages [seven minutes remaining] of the first Test, O’Connell suffered a double arm fracture. He was still on the pitch when Kurtley Beale missed a stoppage-time penalty to hand the Lions a 23-21 win.

“Look,” O’Connell told, “it wasn’t that sore or that bad. The doctor [James Robson] said it was nerve damage so you’e not going to contradict him.

I knew there wasn’t long left and my arm could still function fine; it wasn’t that sore. I don’t think it was the Roy of the Rovers story people think it was. It was frustrating, though, afterwards because when I came off my hand still functioned just fine and I thought I’d be OK. But I got the scan and I had fractured by arm and had fractured at the base of the hand as well.”

O’Connell added, “It was very frustrating because you know you are out then, and it had been a really, really enjoyable tour – one of the most enjoyable tours I was ever on. Obviously, Sam [Warburton] was captain so the pressure was off for me and, after me being out for so long, it was all about going out and trying to get picked in the tests. I managed to do that and we won the First Test.

“We were in a good place going into the last two and to be ruled out was disappointing. But it is part and parcel of the game. You just have to get on with it.”

imageDr James Robson assesses O’Connell’s badly injured arm. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The 34-year-old has recovered from a serious knee injury and an operation on bulging back disc in the past 18 months. His comeback from the arm fractures began two days after he incurred the injury — he was photographed pumping the pedals of an exercise bike while his Lions teammates prepared for the second Test.

All the hard work and lonely hours of rehab, he says, have been worth it. He presence in the squad as Joe Schmidt’s squad leader speaks to that.

“It has been frustrating,” O’Connell confessed, “looking on for the last few years; frustrating time with injury. But there’s been a great buzz since Joe has taken over.

“The squad has changed a lot since I came back. There’s bigger strength-in-depth there, a lot more experience. There’s a good buzz at training and it’s a real good time to be involved with Ireland. Hopefully it’ll be a good time to be captain as well.”

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Patrick McCarry

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