SECOND row Paul O’Connell has been ruled out of Ireland’s tour to New Zealand due to injury.
Munster captain O’Connell had been undergoing rehabilitation on a knee injury in London with a view to following the Ireland squad out to New Zealand this weekend, but he has failed to recover sufficiently to allow him take part in the tour.
Connacht forward Mike McCarthy has already been added to the Ireland squad as further cover in the back five area of the forwards. The full squad of 30 players is due to arrive in Auckland on Friday evening.
O’Connell sustained a knee injury in a RaboDirect Pro 12 match against Ulster in early May. Losing O’Connell for the Test series is a major blow for Ireland coach Declan Kidney. Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks and the presence of the inspirational O’Connell for the three Test series was seen as vital if that long run of defeats was to be broken.
It is the second time in three years that O’Connell has missed a Southern Hemisphere summer tour, after a groin infection ruled him out in 2010.
The injury sustained in the Ulster match was the second time this year that O’Connell was forced out with knee problems. He missed the end of the Six Nations championship after picking up an injury in the dramatic draw with France in Paris.
On the positive side, missing the New Zealand tour will allow O’Connell to take a full part in pre season training with Munster, a big boost for the new coaching team of Rob Penney, Anthony Foley and the recently announced backs coach Simon Mannix. With next season leading up to the 2013 Lions tour, a fully fit O’Connell would be expected to challenge very strongly for a starting place in the first Lions Test against Australia.
Donal Lenihan, the former Ireland and Lions manager said this week that the multiple retirements Munster have endured this season, it is imperative for their development that O’Connell is fit and ready to play from the outset of next season under new coach Rob Penney.
Ireland face New Zealand in the first of three Tests at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday, June 9 at 8.35am Irish time. (Live on Sky Sports).