O’Connell plays 80 minutes

Paul O'Connell has his sights set on more game time as he targets a third successive Lions tour this summer. [more]

O’Connell plays 80 minutes

Paul O’Connell has his sights set on more game time as he targets a third successive Lions tour this summer.

The 2009 tour captain made his comeback from a back injury last Tuesday and played his second game of the week on Saturday.

O’Connell turned out for his club side Young Munster in the All Ireland League having begun his road to Australia in Munster A’s interprovincial win over Leinster.

And with his first full 80 minutes in five months now behind him, the 33-year-old looks likely to return to full Munster colours when they face Connacht in Cork this weekend.

The star second row, who has played in the last six Lions Tests in South Africa and New Zealand, is now hopeful of pushing for a place in the Munster starting line up for the Heineken Cup quarter-final against English champions Harlequins on April 7.

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“I felt very sluggish at the start, but in the second half I got going,” said O’Connell.

“There were a lot of scrums and lineouts and those things really do test the back – it was great from that point of view.

“I know (fellow Munster lock) Donnacha Ryan is carrying a few injuries, so he might need a bit of time off. Hopefully, I can get in there and get some game time.

“There are three weeks to go until the Harlequins match and it’s possible to make it. If we were closer to that game, it’s not something we’d be doing because you’d be draining the energy. But this is the time to do it and I’ll have plenty of time to recover.”

Despite securing 10 lineouts for Young Munster, O’Connell couldn’t stop his side from falling to a 10-9  defeat to Cork Constitution, but that won’t have worried Munster coach Rob Penney and Lions boss Warren Gatland who will just be delighted that he came through a full match unscathed.

O’Connell has only played two games for Munster this season, both in Europe, way back in October.

A bulging disk kept him out of Ireland's autumn internationals and all five Championship games this spring, meaning he hasn't represented his country for close to a year after missing the summer tour of New Zealand with a knee problem.

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