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Drico’s playing future in balance

THERE is strong speculation that Brian O’Driscoll could be on the verge of an operation to clear up the ‘stinger’ injury that will either make-or-break the rest of his career.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he has played his last rugby match, such is the persistence of a combined neck/shoulder injury that has grown increasingly complicated over time.

While Leinster looked set to include O’Driscoll in their Heineken Cup squad to play away in Montpellier on Saturday, the fickle finger of fate points at a likely operation and the prospect of a break from the game until the New Year.

Putting together the pieces of this jigsaw, coach Joe Schmidt’s words “if we can get him right” indicated that the rehabilitation of O’Driscoll’s shoulder is not cut and dried. There is an element of doubt about it.

Ireland’s captain played through the pain barrier for most of last season in the Magners League, Heineken Cup and the Six Nations, never quite shaking the ‘stinger’.

O’Driscoll took a heavy, late hit from Marcus Horan to his right shoulder area in the 27th minute of the Magners League Grand Final last May. He reinjured the same shoulder against France in the World Cup warm-up in August.

From then on, he seemed to ignore the |dangers involved and put his deteriorating shoulder to the grindstone like only he can with typical disregard for his personal safety.

The bloody-minded nature of Ireland’s greatest player meant he started four of five World Cup matches, shelving the cost of personal physical damage in pursuit of a greater team cause.

The lure of his last shot at World Cup glory was too strong to resist. Now, the time has come to find out the price he has to pay for putting his body on the line.

The stated ambition of Ireland’s record try-scorer (45) and cap holder (117) is to play on to the next British & Irish Lions series in Australia in the summer of 2013.

The infamous tackle by All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu and Tana Umaga on the then British & Irish Lions captain in 2005 prompted a reconstruction of his right shoulder and five months away from the game.

Six years on, it is the same shoulder-neck |area that could prove to be the ‘coup de grace’ to his career.

Only O’Driscoll’s surgeon knows whether one injury is related to the other.

What is indisputable is that if anyone can overcome this career-threatening injury, it is the bravest of the brave.