Ireland coach Kidney wants O'Connell - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Ireland coach Kidney wants O'Connell

19/05/2010 11:36:35 AM Comments (0)

Ireland coach Declan Kidney has insisted Lions captain Paul O'Connell is too important to be omitted from Ireland's rugby squad for their tour to New Zealand and Australia even though the star lock is struggling with a groin injury.

Kidney included O'Connell as he selected his strongest possible 33-man squad for the tour, resisting any temptation to rest veterans such as John Hayes, Brian O'Driscoll and David Wallace.

The squad contains three uncapped players with Ulster back-row Chris Henry and lock Dan Tuohy adding cover in the pack and Leinster centre Fergus McFadden also included.

O'Connell was picked despite being sidelined since March after suffering a groin problem in a Six Nations match against Scotland which has left him needing intravenous antibiotics in a Cork hospital.

He has suffered several setbacks on the road to recovery but Kidney believes he could still be fit for the tour.

"There are four weeks until we play New Zealand and six weeks until we play Australia," Kidney said.

"You don't write off a player of Paul's calibre until you have to. With the nature of his injury there's a chance he'll return and we'll give him every opportunity to do that.

"There's a contingency plan in place in case he doesn't recover. Some lads are going on holiday but they know they might be needed and we're well covered.

"Paul is showing some signs of improvement. I wouldn't like to put a figure on it percentage-wise but the nature of his injury is that it could improve rapidly."

O'Connell's Lions team-mate Stephen Ferris has been forced to concede defeat in his fitness battle, however, with the broken cheekbone sustained in training at the start of the month ending his tour hopes.

Munster back row Denis Leamy and Leinster winger Luke Fitzgerald, both longer-term casualties, have also been given the summer off because of their knee problems.

"You will always start a tour without some players who have been lost to injury," Kidney said.

"Australia and South Africa had niggles when they played us in November but didn't complain about it and we won't complain about it either.

"It's a good way for us to develop depth in our squad because if you don't have that you'll be found out."

"We've tried to balance the mix of youth and experience," Kidney added.

"We have three new caps and we have another four lads who don't have much game time under their belts so they'll need experienced players around them.

"When you're playing the top teams in the world you need all the experience you have because there will be no hiding place and you will be exposed.

Ireland squad to tour Australia and New Zealand:

Forwards: Rory Best (Ulster), Tony Buckley (Munster), Tom Court (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Connacht), Jerry Flannery (Munster), John Hayes (Munster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Marcus Horan (Munster), Shane Jennings (Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), John Muldoon (Connacht), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), Paul O'Connell (Munster), Mick O'Driscoll (Munster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster), David Wallace (Munster).

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