Clear from Drico's body language that surgery could spell the end of story for a living legend

IRELAND captain Brian O'Driscoll's career is balanced on a surgeon's knife edge. He has confirmed he will have an operation on a trapped nerve in his right shoulder area that will keep him out of the game for six months.

By this measure, he will miss all of Leinster's Heineken Cup pool matches, the quarter and semi-final stages and Ireland's entire Six Nations campaign.

It isn't often that O'Driscoll is put front and centre at Leinster's Monday snap press briefing. So, when the news came that he would be present yesterday, it had bad news written all over it.

He was either going to rubbish the rumours or come clean. It was the latter. The Ireland captain will undergo surgery by Dr Ashley Poynton, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Mater Private, next week.

"I have accepted it at this stage. I knew I couldn't keep carrying on the way it was. Sometimes, it is just a realisation that it is part and parcel of what we do," he said.

"Post-World Cup, I saw a few different specialists. They were all saying the same thing. I have been getting as many opinions as possible. Sometimes it is a relief that they are all saying the same thing."

Worse than that, O'Driscoll was not able to confirm his certain return to the game before the end of this or the start of next season. It was obvious from his demeanour and his words that this could spell the end of the story for a living legend.

"It is not just a rugby-based thing. I need this for quality of life post-rugby as well. That makes it a bit easier to get the surgery," he continued.

"It is largely dependent on rehab. When you are going into that area of the body, it's not straightforward. But, it is something that has been done a number of times by this surgeon. He is hugely experienced.

"I am sure he will be able to give me a better timeline after a couple of months. I have had one six-month lay-off before and it is hard. Two in 12 years isn't a bad outcome."

Of course, O'Driscoll has been here before, having to work through the recovery process from his shoulder reconstruction in 2005. This injury is not related.

"He has given me a likelihood, percentage-wise, of what are my chances of getting back. It is pretty realistic. I do have the rest of my life to think about as well.

"If there was any chance of playing through discomfort again I would think the smart move at this stage would be to call it a day."

This injury saga all started during the Six Nations in the spring of this year: "There were certain collisions -- or when collisions came and I wasn't expecting it -- whether it be something off the ball or getting (accidentally) hit by a team-mate passing me by.

"Those sort of jolts, when you're not ready for them, they have a bit more of an impact on you. It wasn't just a case of being able to deal with the pain, you have loss of movement and power."

Ireland's captain had to contend with the debilitating injury at the World Cup. It was always there ready to test him mentally and physically.

"It was a factor. It was. It was there in the background and I was trying to manage myself a bit. I knew I couldn't carry on for a full season. I was lucky to get through parts of the World Cup, albeit I did improve during it.

"It certainly wasn't a case of not being fit to play. I wasn't in any danger. I just had to be able to deal with a fair bit of discomfort and lack of power."

In a recent interview, he stated his personal goal of making the 2013 Lions' tour to Australia in 18 months' time. At the moment, he cannot look beyond next week.