Ronnie O’Sullivan returns to the Sheffield Crucible?

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RONNIE O’Sullivan could make a sensational return to snooker in Sheffield to defend his World Championship title.

Four-time Crucible King O’Sullivan has taken the rest of the season to spend more time with his family and father, Ronnie Snr, now that he has been released from an 18-year jail sentence for murder.

But Barry Hearn, World Snooker chairman, says he and O’Sullivan have had private meetings to discuss the possibility about the box office star returning in time for the sports biggest tournament, (April 20- May 6).

Hearn admitted: “I have said to Ronnie that the ONLY tournament for us if he wanted to change his mind – and that is not unknown – is the World Championship.

“We are not sure exactly when the closing date for that would be but I will call him and make sure he knows when it is. Then it is his decision. We know how much interest that would generate at this season’s event, clearly more so as a defending world champion after most of a season out.

“We didn’t want to lose Ronnie at all for the profile he brings. One thing that will not have escaped Ronnie’s attention, because he loves his sport, is how uncompetitive Ricky Hatton was on his return to the ring.

“Snooker is so competitive now that he will know you either take it 100 per cent seriously, or don’t play at all. That is the issue in his mind. He is not going to play for first-round loser’s money, or come back to the stage he has graced and given so much pleasure to get embarrassed.”

Former world champion Ken Doherty and two-time Crucible finalist Ali Carter would both welcome the ‘Rocket’s’ return for snooker’s greatest prize.

“What a great story it would be if he just came back for the World Championship,” he said. “It would create such a buzz for players and fans.”