Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
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Penney: O'Connell surgery is 'massive step forward'
However, the Munster coach refused to put any time-frame on when the Lions captain may return.

ROB PENNEY HAD already termed last night’s 24-10 win over Ulster at Thomond Park “a mixed bag”.

That was before the subject of Paul O’Connell came up.

Minutes before kick-off in Limerick, Munster released a statement confirming that the influential lock would undergo surgery on the persistent problem in his lower back.

The issue has limited O’Connell to two appearances this season, each one coming as a bit of a surprise in the Heineken Cup clashes against Racing Metro and Edinburgh.

Speaking after the inter-provincial win which pushes Munster up to third in the RaboDirect Pro12, Penney swiped away the suggestion that this was another setback for his pack leader.

“I think it’s a really massive step forward, because the uncertainty for Paul has been a frustration. He’s been beavering away with a whole lot of medical support and it’s been what they would term a ‘conservative management’ of his injury.

“They’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time now to get on the front foot and be more aggressive with the treatment.”

However, Penney could not elaborate on the precise problem, intimating that the IRFU were likely to issue further updates this coming week.

Uncertain too, is O’Connell’s long-term future in the game as Penney says the most important thing now for the 33-year-old is getting back to full fitness, not for Munster or Ireland, but for O’Connell himself.

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“The good thing is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the guy.

“Whatever happens, lets just hope he’s got full use of his faculties so he can live a normal and healthy life.

“The rugby stuff is secondary.”

- Additional reporting by Aoife Danagher of

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