PAUL O’CONNELL is definitely out of Munster’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against Llanelli Scarlets later this month.
The Munster skipper underwent surgery on Monday night on a thumb fracture sustained against Scotland, where medics inserted a pin to rectify the problem.
Ireland boss Eddie O’Sullivan, who had drafted Mick O’Driscoll in as O’Connell’s replacement for Saturday’s Six Nations trip to Rome, predicts the Limerick man will be out for four to five weeks.
Admitted the Irish coach: “That means Paul misses the Scarlets-Munster game but he will be okay for the semi-final if Munster go through.
He added: “It’s similar to the injury he had before but in a different hand. It’s not a bad injury but a niggling one that you can’t play with. He is a huge loss because Paulie is the talisman in the pack. But these things happen in rugby and now Micko will be happy to be given his chance. He’s been in good form with Munster and it will help that he is coming into a pack with so many familiar faces.”
Meanwhile O’Sullivan dismissed David Sole’s “concussion smokescreen” blast on the Ronan O’Gara controversy as “nonsense” and asked that a line has finally been drawn under Saturday’s happenings at Murrayfield.
Scottish coach Frank Hadden has been attempting, without success, to contact his Irish counterpart to resolve the issue over the past few days, but O’Sullivan insisted that was far from intentional on his part.
“He rang me, I rang him, missed him, he rang me again this morning, missed me. We have been trying to make contact and I suspect he wants to put the whole thing behind us,” said O’Sullivan. “He wants to get on to the game in Paris and I need to put it behind us and get onto Rome. I said that on Saturday that once the match commissioner came back with a decision that there was no case to answer, then that’s the way it is and we’ve got to move on.”
Nevertheless, there have been many disquieting aspects to the controversy, not least the fact that the image of rugby as a desirable game for youngsters to play took a bit of a blow.
“It’s not good for the sport that such incidents should occur,” O’Sullivan acknowledged. “Every so often in rugby, something happens that everybody is unhappy about. It’s not the first unsavoury incident on a rugby pitch and probably not the last. People do get punched in rugby and get a broken nose or broken jaw. It’s a physical game, a contact game and we don’t like that happening but it’s the way the game works. You can’t cancel everything. It happens in all sports at some point. It’s just life. We can’t change what happened. There’s no point in bellyaching about it.”
As for the remarks attributed to Sole that Ireland were using the “choke” claim as a smokescreen for alleged concussion suffered by O’Gara, O’Sullivan was quite dismissive.
“Is he a doctor?” O’Sullivan asked. “Our medical staff are 100% satisfied Ronan O’Gara doesn’t have concussion of any description, did not swallow his tongue and did not have blue paint on his face. I don’t regret what I said. Why should I? Just because nothing was substantiated doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It happens all the time on rugby pitches that there are cases of foul play that haven’t been substantiated. I don’t know how David Sole came into this, how he’s suddenly an expert on concussion. It’s nonsense. I think people know me well enough to know that I wouldn’t put a player in jeopardy under any circumstances.”
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