Ireland's RBS 6 Nations campaign has been given a timely lift after it was revealed that Paul O'Connell is on course to face Scotland on February 23
O’Connell missed Saturday’s unconvincing 16-11 victory over Italy with a back injury that had threatened to rule him out for the rest of the season.
But after one abortive comeback, the feared Munster lock has made encouraging progress in his recovery and coach Eddie O’Sullivan has cautiously pencilled him in against the Scots.
“I’m careful with Paul because he was doing well in the build-up to the 6 Nations only to wake up one morning in big trouble,” he said. “It’s one of those injuries that can act up but now his rehabilitation is going well.
“The plan is for him to play maybe half a game with Munster A against Ulster A next weekend. The week after he’ll play in the Magners League and if he gets through that he’ll come into the frame for the Scotland game.
“That’s the plan but I’m being careful because Paul had a similar plan a few weeks ago that came unstuck.”
O’Sullivan attempted to put a gloss on his side’s faltering start to the RBS 6 Nations but conceded they would have to be more ruthless against France on Saturday.
“The performance in general was not bells and whistles but I was happy enough with what I saw,” he said.
“We didn’t click when we needed to, but there is belief in the squad - 6 Nations rugby is about progressing so we’ll have to be more accurate against France.
“I’d like us to tighten up the lineout against France. We’ll need to practice our scrum as well because the French will test us there.”
O’Sullivan’s job over the coming weeks has not been helped by the loss of Gordon D’Arcy to a fractured forearm for the remainder of the championship.
Either Trimble, who replaced D’Arcy at inside centre against Italy, or Leinster winger Shane Horgan will fill the number 12 jersey against France.
“One of the options is to bring Andrew into the midfield. He had a good game against Italy,” said O’Sullivan.
“Shane Horgan played for Ireland A on Friday so he comes into the mix. He needed a game at that level to help him back from his injury problems.
“You have to factor in Shane’s experience when considering selection. I haven’t yet made up my mind on what the balance will be with Gordon gone.”