O'Connell named in Ireland squad
May 18, 2010
Paul O'Connell has been struggling with a groin problem since the tail end of the Six Nations © Getty Images
Munster captain Paul O'Connell has been included in the Ireland squad for the summer tour of New Zealand and Australia despite ongoing concerns over his fitness.
The inspirational lock has not played since the Six Nations defeat by Scotland at Croke Park in March because of an infection in his groin for which he is currently on a course of intravenous antibiotics. As a result, it had been anticipated that O'Connell would be given the summer off to concentrate on his recovery but the British & Irish Lions skipper is one of 33 players selected for the southern hemisphere tour.
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney commented: "There are four weeks until we play New Zealand and six weeks until we play Australia. You don't write off a player of Paul's calibre until you have to.
"With the nature of his injury there's a chance he'll return and we'll give him every opportunity to do that. Paul is showing some signs of improvement. I wouldn't like to put a figure on it percentage-wise but the nature of his injury is that it could improve rapidly."
Munster centre Keith Earls has also been included in the panel despite the fact that he too has been struggling with a groin problem of late. However, Leinster captain Leo Cullen misses out because of a shoulder injury sustained against Edinburgh just over a week ago, while Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris is unavailable after fracturing his cheekbone in training earlier this month.
Meanwhile, there are just three uncapped players in the panel, Ulster forwards Chris Henry and Dan Tuohy, and Leinster centre Fergus McFadden, with Kidney saying he was determined to select as strong a squad as possible.
"We've tried to balance the mix of youth and experience," said Kidney. "We have three new caps and we have another four lads who don't have much game time under their belts so they'll need experienced players around them.
"When you're playing the top teams in the world you need all the experience you have because there will be no hiding place and you will be exposed. You can't throw 15 young guys in against the best team in the world and expect them to learn things the way they should. That will just set them back even more. Any time you have a green jersey on you don't want that to happen."
Ireland kick off their summer programme with a game against the Barbarians at Thomond Park on June 4 before travelling to New Zealand to take on the All Blacks in New Plymouth eight days later. The Irish will then meet the New Zealand Maori in Rotorua on June 18 and will then complete their tour by taking on the Wallabies in Brisbane on June 26.
Ireland squad: Rory Best, Tommy Bowe, Tony Buckley, Tom Court, Sean Cronin, Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry, Marcus Horan, Shane Horgan, Shane Jennings, Robert Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Kevin McLaughlin, John Muldoon, Geordan Murphy, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell, Mick O'Driscoll, Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Peter Stringer, Andrew Trimble, Dan Tuohy, David Wallace, Paddy Wallace.
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