Munster talisman O’Connell set to miss start of season and Pro12 campaign
Coach Rob Penney confirms at least another 10-day absence for second row star.
New Munster coach Rob Penney has confirmed on Wednesday that Paul O’Connell will miss the start of the season as the second row is recovering from a medial knee ligament injury picked up in the semi-final RaboDirect Pro12 defeat against Ospreys last May .
O’Connell missed Ireland’s summer tour of New Zealand as a result of the injury but Penney had hoped that he would feature in Friday’s friendly against Bristol and next week’s pre-season against London Irish, both at Musgrave Park, ahead of the season opener away to Edinburgh in the Pro12 campaign on September 1 at Murrayfield.
“It just depends on how he is over the next 10 days or so but it’s highly unlikely that he will be available for the first round of matches,” said Penney on Wednesday.
“We want to be able to unleash him when he is 100 per cent and he is at the stage in his career when he needs consistent rugby and when he gets that, he is one of the best locks in the world.”
Munster are 11/1 to win the Heineken Cup this season with Leinster installed as 3/1 favourites ahead of Toulouse at 5/1 and Clermont Auvergne at 7/1, while Harlequins and Toulon are 10/1 for European glory.
Penny confirmed that the luckless Felix Jones would not be back until Christmas after his rehabilitation time following shoulder surgery in May was extended from four to seven months. There was better news for flanker Niall Ronan, who is close to full fitness.
The Munster coach makes four changes to his starting team for the second of the pre-season friendlies when the Irish province takes on Bristol at Musgrave Park on Friday evening at 7pm.
Hooker Damien Varley, who missed the trip to La Rochelle, returns from injury while Casey Laulala Dave Foley and Paddy Butler are in from the start ahead of Danny Barnes, Brian Hayes and James Coughlan. Hayes and Barnes are both named on an extended bench.
The province are 7/2 to win the Pro12 Grand Final next May with Leinster priced at 11/8 followed by Ospreys at 10/3 and Ulster are 9/1.
Penney’s charges are in Pool One and the Munstermen are 6/4 to win the Pool with Saracens next best at 13/8 followed by French side, Racing Metro, at 9/2 and Edinburgh are 6/1 to top the group.