By John Fallon
The announcement that Wales will provide warm-up opposition for Ireland ahead of next year’s World Cup will bring back bittersweet memories for Tommy O’Donnell, as his hopes of featuring in the 2015 tournament ended in one of those games.
However, getting to Japan in 2019 is a long way down the road for the Tipperary man, who has battled back from his latest injury and featured for Munster for the first time since March in the 38-0 win over the Cheetahs.
His hopes of playing in the World Cup in England died when he suffered a hip injury against Wales in a warm-up match and, while he returned for the Six Nations the following spring, opportunities have been limited with Joe Schmidt’s side.
There are only three players in the current Munster squad who have played more games for the province than the Clonmel native and he has managed that despite having more lengthy injuries than most.
However, the 30-year-old, who played his 156th game for Munster at the weekend, is resilient and has battled back from surgery on a shoulder injury picked up against Scarlets back in March.
“It was really good to get back. It’s always great to get back to Thomond Park. It’s been a long enough absence since I left the field in March. I think the way the game has gone, everybody is going to come across injuries. I think that’s the way you have to deal with it as a professional.
“Early-season or late-season injury you just have to take your time and know when an injury is fully healed and know when to push to come back. Taking those one or two games and getting back to form is where the real test is, I suppose, in bouncing back,” said O’Donnell, who won the last of his 12 caps against Scotland in the 2016 Six Nations. An ankle injury ruled him out of last year’s tour to the USA and Japan and that shoulder injury meant he wasn’t considered for Australia this summer. His main aim is to chalk up game-time with Munster in a competitive back row and if an Ireland opportunity comes he wants to be ready to embrace it.
“Injuries can happen at any time, so you have to be ready, so if it comes in May or June next year heading into camp all you can do is be there and be fit and be playing a good brand of rugby and that’s where you have to aim for. What happens between here and then you never know, but you have to aim for that,” he added.
There’s been an edge to clashes between Munster and Glasgow Warriors in recent years and O’Donnell doesn’t expect anything different at Scotstoun tomorrow.
“Yeah, I suppose it’s a physical rivalry. It’s two teams who have high ambitions for themselves and have high standards for themselves.
“Last year, we were both in the same tier and we all want to finish top of our tier and we all want to push onto European success, so that’s what’s going to happen when two ambitious teams like that come together.
“They’ll be buoyed from that win at the weekend (against Connacht). It might have been a last-gasp win, but they did well to come back They were 10 or so points down, so they did well to come back and beat Connacht — who are playing well and playing a good brand of rugby — to get a win on the first day away from home they’ll be looking forward to us coming,” said O’Donnell.