Paul O’Connell may have led the Lions in the ultimate challenge earlier this summer but that doesn’t mean he’ll be underestimating the domestic contests facing him this season.
Having come so close to a memorable series victory with Ian McGeechan’s men in June and July of this year, O’Connell now turns his attention to Munster and the defence of their Magners League crown – something the giant second row knows his side cannot take for granted.
The 2006 and 2008 Heineken Cup winners travel to Firhill to face Glasgow on Friday night and, even though he and his fellow 2009 Lions will not be involved on the pitch, O’Connell has reminded his team-mates they will have to be at their best against Sean Lineen’s men.
“Munster have never found it easy against Glasgow home or away,” said O’Connell, who was one of six Munster players to see action in South Africa with Britain and Ireland’s elite.
“On top, they have brought in quality internationals like Chris Cusiter and Rob Dewey who we know all about, so it’s a very testing opener for us.
“You have to say that Glasgow have strengthened over the summer and in front of their support on the opening night they will come out of the traps full pelt.”
While O’Connell, Keith Earls, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Ronan O’Gara and David Wallace are unavailable for selection due to their involvement with the Lions, original Lions selections Tomas O’Leary and Jerry Flannery are ruled out through injury and Alan Quinlan still has a week left to serve on his suspension for eye gouging.
Flannery suffered an elbow injury in training with the Lions at Pennyhill Park and has now picked up a calf muscle problem while on a pre-season camp in Portugal. The Ireland hooker is expected to return to action in around three weeks time, while scrum-half O’Leary, who became the first player to be ruled out of Lions contention just days after his selection in the 37-man squad, is ahead of schedule in his own recovery from a broken ankle.
“Originally it was reported that Tomas would not be back until around Christmas,” explained Munster team manager Shaun Payne.
“But we are hopeful that he will be back on the pitch before the start of the Heineken Cup (in October).
“I’m not going to give a definite but he is way ahead of schedule.”