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O'Connell set to face Wales

Paul O'Connell is confident he can play through any lingering effects of his chest infection against Wales in the RBS 6 Nations on Saturday.

The Ireland captain admitted he was embarrassed with his last-minute withdrawal from last weekend's 28-6 Scotland victory.

The 34-year-old Munster lock made a full return to training on Thursday after sitting out Tuesday's session entirely.

Boss Joe Schmidt had no qualms pitching O'Connell back into his Ireland line-up to face Warren Gatland's Wales, with Gordon D'Arcy replacing Luke Marshall the only other change.

O'Connell completed a course of antibiotics on Thursday and expects to be at full speed for Saturday's Dublin showdown, despite suffering flak from former Ireland team-mates on last week's absence.

"I've just got a little bit of a cough left, that's all," he said.

"It's a bit embarrassing really. I've copped plenty of slagging from the old-school players I've played with for years.

"I've just finished a course of antibiotics; I've played matches on them before, so I don't struggle with it at all.

"You almost wish you'd had something worse than a chest infection.

"I'm experienced enough to know how to handle things like this, I've dealt with similar things before.

"I broke ribs against England, and had to withdraw late the next week from a game against Italy.

"It was very frustrating and very disappointing then, and the same last weekend.

"I've worked hard to get into a position where I could play in the Six Nations, so to miss out on the first game was frustrating and disappointing.

"But I think you have to have respect for your team-mates as well, particularly the second-row, Dan Tuohy has been playing great this season, and Iain Henderson had been in camp all week.

"And I really didn't think it would affect the team in a big way, and I thought I might write myself off for this week if I did play."

O'Connell admitted it was an easy decision in the end to put the team first last weekend and step back to allow Ulster lock Tuohy to start.

Anticipating a fearsome tussle against Wales, he said: "I was asking myself that during the week, whether if it were a Grand Slam decider would I try to play.

"But I think you still have to have respect for your team, the body wasn't right, and there were two guys there who were right and ready to go.

"From that point of view while it was frustrating and disappointing, it wasn't a difficult decision either."

Italy subdued Wales at the scrum last weekend, Martin Castrogiovanni getting the better of Paul James in the eyes of the officials.

Centurion Gethin Jenkins returns to shore up Wales' front-row on Saturday, with O'Connell expecting a completely different complexion at the coal-face from the visitors after their troubles last weekend.

"The scrum is just a very difficult thing to predict from week to week," said O'Connell.

"I know ourselves we had a poor day against Australia in the autumn. We struggled to deal with them.

"Italy have an excellent scrum and also Wales have made a change there in bringing in Gethin Jenkins, who is a very experienced player and a very experienced scrummager.

"I know it's an area where we can do well though, and we just want to play off quality ball for the backs from our scrum.

"A lot of these fixtures are one-score games, so you need to score in the last quarter, in the closing stages if you want to get a result.

"Hopefully with our fitness levels that we've shown throughout the year, and the quality of the bench, hopefully we can do that."


From Belfast Telegraph