| 14°C Dublin

O'Callaghan: Not one of usdoubted O'Connell return

AS Paul O'Connell departed his press conference in Limerick on Wednesday, he grabbed a brief and private moment with Donncha O'Callaghan.

The two towering second-rows huddled together - well as much as two 6ft 6in behemoths can 'huddle' - and shared a few words.

O'Callaghan wouldn't be drawn on what they discussed afterwards, but the admiration for his long-time partner was clearly evident.

Up until last season, O'Callaghan and O'Connell were practically joined at the hip in both the Irish and Munster teams and the elder of the two has never been shy in his admiration of the former Lions captain.

And now that there is a definite timeline on O'Connell's likely return to the Munster side, he couldn't be happier.

"I'll be honest with you, none of us doubted him," said O'Callaghan. "With Paul you just know he'll do everything to get himself right and get back.

"It has been kind of frustrating because people come up to you and say: 'How's Paulie? Oh, he's in a bad way,' because they don't know him as well as you do and don't know how much he's going to put in to get right.

Throat

"As soon as you hear people write him off, you nearly jump down their throat because all the while you know Paul is doing whatever needs to be done."

That O'Connell's return will coincide with a possible Heineken Cup quarter-final will be a massive motivation for the side.

"It's the incentive for us to get a full squad back and to be playing quality rugby at the top end knock-out stages.

"Hopefully, we can get into position where you'll know there's help coming and to be in a position where you can welcome him back for massive games," added O'Callaghan.

O'Callaghan has emphasised just how seriously Munster are approaching Sunday's Heineken Cup date with Edinburgh at Murrayfield. "It's our season," he declared. "It's everything, it's 80 minutes of rugby to have a chance to have 80 minutes more, otherwise it's over for us."

The second-row was rested for last weekend's defeat against Cardiff in Cork but, never being one to absolve himself from the fallout when Munster don't perform to their usual standards, he was clearly hurting after sitting through the horror show in Musgrave Park.

"Yeah, like everyone in Cork that night. You felt disappointed for people who travelled down the road from Limerick, Tipp, Kerry and all over," he said. "I met a fella coming out of the ground and he was heading home to Thurles afterwards.

Appreciate

"All I could think about was how I was going to be at home sitting on my couch when he'd still be driving. Something like that does make you appreciate just what our supporters go through. Then for the team to go out and put on a performance like that isn't something you come away proud of, so it was a disappointing one."