Paul O’Connell will finally get his push for Lions selection underway this afternoon when he makes his comeback from a back injury.
The 2009 Lions captain will start for Munster A when they face Leinster A in Limerick, some five months after his last outing back in October.
O’Connell has featured just twice this season but is thankfully returning to action ahead of schedule following surgery.
A bulging disk kept the 33-year-old out of Ireland’s autumn internationals and all four Championship games this spring, with critics suggesting he wouldn’t be fit to play again until next month.
He hasn’t represented his country for close to a year, having missed the summer tour of New Zealand with a knee problem.
But even though O’Connell admits that ‘it’s going to be very difficult’ to make the Lions tour of Hong Kong and Australia this summer given his lengthy absence, his extensive experience could count in his favour when Warren Gatland selects his squad at the end of April.
O’Connell has started the last six Tests for Britain and Ireland’s elite in South Africa and New Zealand and was widely regarded as a success as skipper four years ago.
He still has plenty of time to persuade Gatland that he should be on the plane Down Under, with the Lions boss having previously stated that club form over the closing weeks of the season will have a major impact on selection even though the international campaign only has a week to run.
A strong comeback today would see O’Connell penciled in for a first-team return against Connacht a week on Saturday, with the Red Army hopeful that he will show enough form over the next four weeks to enable him to play in their vital Heineken Cup quarter-final against Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on April 7.