O'Connell sets sights on Quins showdown
March 25, 2013
Paul O'Connell picked up the Man of the Match honour on his return to Munster colours © Getty Images
Munster lock Paul O'Connell has issued a warning to Heineken Cup rivals Harlequins by declaring he will be fully fit for their quarter-final showdown later this month.
O'Connell returned from a five-month injury lay-off to propel his side to victory over Connacht on Saturday night. He celebrated his first PRO12 appearance since undergoing back surgery in January with his first try for almost four years and the Man of the Match honour and immediately set his sights on his province's eagerly-awaited clash with Quins at The Stoop on April 7.
The 33-year-old is in no doubt he is on track for his side's euro showdown. "I'll be fine by Harlequins, I know that myself. It usually takes me three matches to get my fitness back and I've two-and-a-half played now," said O'Connell whose next outing is likely to be against PRO12 title rivals Glasgow on Friday night.
"It was great to get through the 80 minutes. I had a few good carries, but some of my breakdown stuff I wouldn't be too happy about and I will take a close look at that," he said. "The team who wins the breakdown generally wins the game so I need to sharpen up there. And back to back efforts. To be able to do something good and back it up with something else straight away.
"...But it is great to be back and I will feel better as a result of this one. The last few months I've been doing rehab on the weekends and watching games from the stands so it was great to be able to play."
Despite having sat out the entire Six Nations, the end of the domestic season could prove to be a stepping stone to selection for a third British & Irish Lions tour later in the year with the squad announcement due on April 30, but O'Connell is refusing to look that far ahead. "I'm not thinking about that - I'm just happy to be back playing for Munster. I want to play as well and for as long as I can for Munster and that's my sole focus," said O'Connell.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton