SHANE HORGAN's chances of playing again this season are looking increasingly slim and Joe Schmidt yesterday admitted his fear that the 33-year-old may be forced to retire as a result of his ongoing knee injury.
The winger has not played this season after undergoing surgery last summer. He had earlier spoken of his hope of returning midway through Leinster's campaign, but, having undergone a second operation, it appears unlikely that he will make a return.
With no firm date set for his comeback, Schmidt acknowledged that Horgan will need to show signs of recovery in the next six weeks in order to prove he could play again this season.
"It's been such a long road for Shane that there's obviously a lot of frustration for him and a lot of frustration for us," he said.
"A lot's been said about Brian (O'Driscoll) and how important he is to us and there's no doubt about that, but Shane was a massive player for us last year and it's been really disappointing not having him as part of the group.
"We'd hope for some improvement in the next four to six weeks really, otherwise we would be starting to get too tight (for time).
And the prospect that the 65-times capped Irish international and former Lion may have to hang up his boots remains a prospect.
"It's always something older players have to consider when they come back from long-term injuries.
"Is there enough time left for them to really get back into the game and I suppose the longer it goes, the tougher that will be for Shane. As far as mentally being very mature and very, very tough, Shane will make those decisions once he's decided it's just not possible to get back."