Ireland and Munster lock Paul O’Connell will miss training this week as he attempts to recover from a calf injury in time for the November internationals taking place at Aviva Stadium.
Ireland will play Samoa on 9 November, Australia on 16 November and New Zealand on 24 November, as Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt prepared to open his account as the national team coach.
Ireland’s forward talisman O’Connell pulled out of Munster’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Glasgow on Friday when he picked up the calf injury in the warm-up and how long he will remain injured for is as yet unclear.
O’Connell told RTÉ Sport: “The injury is a little big niggly. I’m not going to train this week, but hopefully be back into it next week. But it’s hard to know.
“It’s something similar to what Brian [O’Driscoll] has. His took three-and-a-half weeks, and I’m hopeful it won’t take that long, but it can be a bit of a guessing game, so hopefully I’ll be back into training next week.
“I feel very good at the moment and I’m improving every day so hopefully it will continue like that over the next few days.
“It was a little bit sore after the Gloucester game but nothing too serious but I did a little bit of training during the week, last week.
“It was fine and I went home that evening and got off the coach that evening and it was very sore about an hour later. I thought it was nothing too serious and I warmed up against Glasgow and about five minutes into I realised I wasn’t right.
“So I pulled out of that and I got a scan on Saturday morning and there’s a small bit of bruising in it, a small tear as well. So hopefully it’s nothing too serious and hopefully it heals quickly.”
"I warmed up against Glasgow and about five minutes into I realised I wasn’t right" - Paul O'Connell
When pressed on whether the injury might keep him out of the November Test matches, O’Connell said: “It’s just something small I’m hopeful and hopefully it will come right.
“Look, you can’t get down about injuries. If you got down about injuries I’d spend a lot of my time down. I’ve just got to make sure I do the rehab and got to make sure I get it right.”
O’Connell has not played for Ireland since the 17-17 RBS 6 Nations clash with France in 2012, and the Munster stalwart is keen to get back in the green jersey; however, the Limerick man is highly aware how challenging the three November Tests will be for Ireland
“Samoa in the first Test. I think they have the French president’s XV and Georgia as their only other games in the autumn. So our game is their only game against a tier one nation and I think they’re going to target that,” he said. “They’ve been playing some great rugby over the last number of years and they’re a different side to what they were ten years ago.
"They’ve produced a lot of big, strong, fast, highly skilful players, and they’re a lot more disciplined than they used to be so they’re going to be a tough challenge for us.”
As for the challenge of the All Blacks, O'Connell believes they will be a huge challenge, but a welcome one of for the Ireland squad.
“I’d like to finish my career here in Ireland playing with Munster" - Paul O'Connell
He said: “That final game of the Rugby Championship were South Africa’s belief seemed to be back, South Africa were really confident going into that game at Ellis Park. A lot of people tipped them and you just saw how good New Zealand were again so it’s going to be incredible.
“It’s going to be a really tough three weeks, but I think we’re going to find out a lot about ourselves and improve over the three weeks.”
O’Connell was also keen to point out that things have begun well under the start of Schmidt’s tenure, saying: “It’s been good. It’s exciting and different. You hear the Leinster players talking about it and he’s very high in detail.”
But O'Connell also revealed that the Ireland captaincy had not been debated yet by Schmidt, saying: “No there’s been no discussion on the captaincy yet.
"That’s just the way it’s been. Guys are just getting their heads down and working as hard as they can. I don’t know what his plans are.”
O’Connell also claimed he would like to end his career in Ireland, amidst rumours that he will move abroad in the coming years, saying: “I’d like to finish my career here in Ireland playing with Munster.
“I think with Jonny [Sexton] having left last year I think if you mention France in any interview in any sentence it becomes a big topic for discussion, but yeah I hope I’ll finish my career with Munster.”
Interview by Clare MacNamara
Edited by Tadhg Peavoy