Tommy O'Donnell ready to savour surprise Six Nations chance
Tommy O'Donnell cannot fathom how he has turned a career-threatening dislocated hip into RBS 6 Nations selection inside six months.
O'Donnell believes only "a huge amount of luck" has let him beat the nasty hip injury he suffered in August and recover in time to start Ireland's Six Nations opener against Wales on Sunday.
Any fracture to his hip socket in the injury he suffered in Ireland's 35-21 World Cup warm-up win over Wales in Cardiff on August 8 could have jeopardised his career, O'Donnell revealed.
The 28-year-old might have missed the World Cup, but is acutely aware how fortunate he is to have earned his return to the Test arena.
"When I was lying on the turf in the Millennium Stadium I didn't think this was possible," said O'Donnell.
"When I walk into the dressing room see my jersey there on Sunday, it will make it all the sweeter. It will really drive me on I hope.
"It's just a huge amount of luck that I'm back in this time.
"A posterior dislocation like I had, it could have been far worse.
"It could have been never playing rugby again.
"But it was good news from the minute we went in and got the CT scan and the X-rays.
"Nothing was broken, there was no damage to the acetabulum, the hip joint, and that was big news.
"The joint sat back in nicely, the blood supply was good, all the bruising went away in six weeks.
"It was good news on top of good news.
"And after that it was just back to strengthening.
"It just rolled on so quickly it seems like a short process now even though it was four and a half months.
"But if I'd broken the socket, the acetabulum, or damaged the cartilage, that would have made it much, much trickier."
After avoiding serious collateral damage following his hip blow, O'Donnell was initially told to expect eight to nine months out of the game.
The all-action flanker was back in action in December however, racing back to fitness only to receive a head injury against Leinster.
So it was not until O'Donnell played a pivotal role in Munster's 9-7 Pro12 win at Ulster on January 2 that he started to hope he could squeeze his way into the Six Nations reckoning.
Now O'Donnell will form part of an Ireland pack showing only three survivors from the 43-20 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina, slotting in for Sean O'Brien, missing with hamstring trouble.
"When they first gave me a date for returning to play they were talking about April," said O'Donnell.
"So I'd put the Six Nations behind me. And even when I came back against Leinster in December I didn't think about it.
"My only focus was just about getting back and playing.
"And that stood to me because I was able to get back and playing at a good enough level to put my hand up for selection.
"And that's just the way the cards have fallen now that I'm in from the start.
"I felt I hit the ground running in that Ulster game.
"And it was a relief to know I hadn't left my form behind me.
"I'd concentrated on the basics and had been able to come back the same player. So it grew from then on.
"You just focus on the basics, and that's stood to me over the last two years.
"The injury really gives a sense of how hard international caps are to come by.
"Some players are lucky enough to go on a run and get a run of games, I obviously have been unlucky in that regard.
"I probably came a bit late to the table, then was stopped short after a good run in the pre-season.
"So it makes you really savour these caps."