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Tommy O’Donnell is ready to enjoy every minute of his time in an Ireland jersey after recovering from a dislocated hip.
O’Donnell will make his first Ireland appearance against Wales this Sunday since he was stretchered off in the World Cup warm-up clash with Warren Gatland’s men back in August.
Injuries in the Ireland camp have led to a start for the 28-year-old and the Munster man is determined to make the most of his opportunity.
“There was a period where I thought I’d played my last game of rugby," O'Donnell told RTÉ Sport.
"With the pain I was in that's bound to go through your mind. But as soon as I woke up from the anaesthetic and my hip was back in I felt, ‘this isn’t too bad’.
"[Former Ireland team doctor] Eanna Falvey said if that injury went the wrong way I wasn't coming back from it, but it just happened to go the right way the whole time. I springboarded off every bit of good news towards my rehab.
“Every cap is important. I’ve learned how hard they are to come by, I value every one of them and I’m relishing the chance to get my hand on that jersey again."
O’Donnell’s Munster team-mate CJ Stander is set to make his debut in the Six Nations opener and the flanker believes Stander has all the ingredients needed to be a success at international level.
“It’ll be very exciting to see how CJ goes. I’m delighted for him, I think he’s deserved it, he’s been outstanding for us all season and he really deserves to get a crack at the jersey.
"This guy has proven a number of times how well he’s able to shoulder the burden and the duty.
“From the minute he came [to Munster] he's just blossomed. His character, his attitude.. he’s just a great guy. He’s steadily got better and better over the three years. This guy has become more Munster than some of the guys there. We consider him a Munster man – and an Irish man.
“We’re able to help each other out and point each other in the right direction. As we lock down our plays and our detail the nerves will start to go away. If you’re prepared enough you won’t have nerves."