Heaslip aiming to be ready for comeback 'early in year'
Jamie Heaslip hasn't ruled out the possibility of a return from injury in time for the Six Nations but he remains reluctant to put an exact time-frame on his comeback.
The Ireland No 8 hasn't played since March after he suffered a back problem that required surgery and has since kept him out of action.
Doubts over his long-term future in the game have hung over Heaslip but he dismissed any suggestion that he would have to retire, as the 2019 World Cup is still his ultimate goal.
"Early in the year would be nice," Heaslip said.
"In fairness, not that I don't get a say in that (Six Nations), but I don't pick the squad.
"You'd have to go ask Joe (Schmidt) about that one. I've been talking to Joe and we have ideas and plans in our head and we'll see how the cards fall and play the hand that I'm dealt."
Heaslip's Leinster coach Leo Cullen had said back in September that he may require a second operation on his back but, as it is the 33-year old's prerogative, he wasn't willing to discuss any specific details about his injury.
"I have been very clear regarding my medical information, it's private," Heaslip insisted. "I'll get back on the field when I get back on the field. That is the best answer I can give you on that. Return to play? I will be on the field when I am fit and healthy."
With regard to the possibility of playing at a final World Cup in Japan, Heaslip added: "Obviously. Why would I be contracted to 2019 and not want to go to the World Cup in 2019?"
Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.