Lions captain is back at last

Lions captain Paul O'Connell could finally return to action after nine months out of the game. [more]

Paul O'Connell

Lions captain Paul O’Connell could finally return to action after nine months out of the game.

The man who led Britain and Ireland’s elite in South Africa in the summer of 2009 hasn’t played since his country’s Six Nations defeat to Scotland on March 20, while his last provincial appearance for Munster was way back in January.

The 31-year-old’s lengthy absence was initially expected to be far shorter but difficulties in diagnosing his groin problem have led to an extended spell on the sidelines.

But that’s all set to change on Friday night when O’Connell is expected to line up for Young Munster in their All-Ireland League clash with Shannon at Thomond Park.

"We're delighted with the progress he's making," said Munster team manager Shaun Payne.

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"Obviously, Paulie is delighted. There is nothing worse for him than having to sit on the sidelines and watch. It's been a very frustrating time for him since last year's Six Nations. But now he's bursting to get back into it.

"He's had no more set-backs over the last couple of months and his return is a good four weeks ahead of schedule.

"This weekend will be another step and if he progresses past that, then Cardiff will be the next step."

A successful outing for his junior club could see O’Connell face Cardiff Blues in Limerick a week later in what would be hits first Magners League since October 31 2009.

He would then be in contention for the mouth-watering Heineken Cup double header with the Ospreys on December 12 and 18.

While Munster have continued to push on in O’Connell’s absence – they currently sit seven points clear at the top of the Magners League standings – Ireland have not fared so well without him.

Declan Kidney’s men have lost six of the seven Tests their talismanic second row has missed and will no doubt be delighted that Sunday’s clash with Argentina is likely to be the last Test O’Connell is forced to sit out.

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