Leinster talisman Brian O’Driscoll is targeting a return for the Heineken Cup knockout stages after revealing he will be out of action for six months with a shoulder injury.
The Ireland captain will undergo surgery next week to correct a trapped nerve that will rule the 32-year-old out of the RBS 6 Nations.
O’Driscoll was plagued by the injury during the World Cup and was on the sidelines of Leinster’s 24-19 defeat of bitter rivals Munster in the RaboDirect PRO12 on Friday night.
But the 32-year-old is adamant he will return for Leinster by the end of the season as he played down fears of retirement.
He said: “(The surgeon) has given me a likelihood, percentage wise, of what my chances are of getting back.
“It's pretty realistic and a lot of it is about whether you are asymptomatic when you do eventually come back and do all the rehab and then get into the collision side of things.
“I do have the rest of my life to think about as well and if there was any chance of playing through discomfort again then probably the smart move would be to call it a day, but that's thinking very far ahead and we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
“As far as I'm concerned, there's huge positivity to be taken from the results that have been seen on this injury before and I've seen plenty of guys come back from it so there's no reason why not.
“When the operation is done I'll be able to come back and get some quality rehab done and then set an exact date to return.
"The latter stages of the Heineken Cup is something to target. I'll know more about how I'm feeling and if I'm getting stronger in the weeks after the operation.
"I'll be able to set those targets better as time passes. I've been out for six months before and know how to cope with these things.
"I see myself coming back from this and playing for certainly another season. Who knows after that, let's see how the body feels."