One of the major positives coming out of Munster’s 31-12 bonus point win over Zebre was the performance of Jack O’Donoghue.
The 25-year-old Waterford man was one of Munster’s better performers on the day and supporters will be buoyed by the fact that he got 80 minutes under his belt for the first time since he suffered a knee injury in last season’s PRO14 semi-final defeat to Leinster at the RDS.
His return to form and fitness is a big boost for Munster as they begin preparations for their Champions Cup quarter-final with Edinburgh on Saturday.
CJ Stander, who also featured at the weekend, was impressed with the performance of his back-row compatriot.
“He is a great lad,” Stander said.
“He is always someone who brings a lot of energy. He always plays with his heart on his sleeve. You can see it out there. It is great to play with him. He shares the load quite well and he is someone that can fit in anywhere. If he even needs to call a line-out he can do that as well. Great player, it’s good to see him back, and it’s good to see him back playing in where he stopped.”
Whether Johann van Graan will select O’Donoghue in his back-row for next week is another thing. The Munster head coach admits he is not one to make “rash decisions” but he has been impressed with the Waterpark RFC club man in recent weeks.
“The players know that I am not a guy that makes rash selection decisions,” van Graan said.
“Jack was in the openside position when the season ended. He pushed so hard to get back. He said ‘coach will you give me an opportunity?’ I said ‘I will’. He made two appearances from the bench and one as a start. Now it’s about looking at his performance and the performance of other players, Tommy O’Donnell is out, Chris Cloete is available, Tadhg Beirne could play on the flanks, CJ Stander could play on the openside, Arno Botha could play at No 8, Peter O’Mahony played there for Ireland against Australia back in the summer.
“Jack is definitely one of those guys with a few different things we can do. We have got some specific plans for opposition coming up, but very happy with that performance from Jack. It was very close to being man-of-the-match.”