Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
©INPHO/Billy Stickland Paul O'Connell observes Ireland training in November.
# crocked lock
Back surgery looms for O'Connell as Schmidt misses the Lions boat
The Munster second-row is not likely to return to action until mid January at the earliest.

MUNSTER LOCK PAUL O’CONNELL is set for a mid-December surgery date as he looks to set right his ailing back.

O’Connell has played just twice for Munster this season – appearing in Heineken Cup clashes with Racing Metro and Edinburgh in October.

The respective 50 and 60 minute stints seemed to suggest that the 33-year-old would be fit for Ireland’s November Series but a niggling back injury put paid to hopes of him lining out in green.

The southern province have refused to set out a timetable for O’Connell’s return.

It now appears likely that he will be going down the surgery route in an effort to return in time for Heineken Cup pool round five and six and the Six Nations in February and March.

Munster coach Rob Penney confirmed after the 15-9 victory over Saracens at the weekend that there would be no return for O’Connell in the coming weeks.

Penney said, “I think there’s something coming out about Paul in the next week or so.”

No go on Joe show

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt confirmed after Leinster’s 15-12 Heineken Cup defeat to Clermont, yesterday, that he would not be part of the British and Irish Lions coaching ticket.

Talking to Sky Sports after his side lost for the first time in 18 European outings, Schmidt said he would not be travelling to Hong Kong and Australia with Warren Gatland’s Lions next summer.

“I’m not going to be one of [the coaches],” he revealed.

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Schmidt added, “I’ve got my hands full with these [Leinster] guys to be honest.”

Leinster take on Clermont Auvergne at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and the New Zealander admitted that his side’s best hopes for qualification to the knock-out stages may lie in securing a spot as best runner-up. He commented:

We may have to scramble in as best qualifier… It’s difficult enough to beat this team [Clermont] rather than chasing bonus points.”

Former Welsh rugby star Ieuan Evans, who knows Gatland well, told Sky Sports that he expected the Lions coaching staff to included Rob Howley, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree.

The announcement on the Lions coaching ticket will be made on Wednesday.

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