O'Driscoll plays down chances of return for Six Nations
BRIAN O'DRISCOLL was unable to give Ireland fans an early Christmas present as he admitted that he still does not know if he will make it back from injury in time for the Six Nations opener in Wales.
The Ireland captain returned to Leinster training on Monday, but he still has a long way to go before playing as his rehabilitation from ankle ligament surgery continues.
While the more optimistic estimates could see the 33-year-old centre return in time for Leinster's desperate bid to make the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, the margins are fine and the pivotal Millennium Stadium meeting on February 2 may come too soon.
And, after Ulster confirmed that Tommy Bowe's knee operation will definitely rule him out of the tournament, O'Driscoll (above) couldn't confirm that he would win his race to be fit.
"I'm due to come back and play towards the end of January. I'm hoping to be back before that, but I don't know," he said.
"I could make it back for rounds five and six of the Heineken Cup, but I haven't been thinking about it. I'm not aiming at anything at the moment. I'm going day on day, session on session. The thing is, I've had surgery and it has to knit.
"Healing is ongoing and no matter how much work I do, I'm not in control of it. I just have to wait for it to take properly and for when I'm given the go-ahead that it is secure from the specialist."
The Wales game will set the agenda for the rest of the Six Nations, just as last year's Lansdowne Road defeat to the same opposition got Ireland off on the wrong foot.
"The first game is always important, it is all about building momentum through winning. Wales in Cardiff is a tough place to go," O'Driscoll admitted. "But the Six Nations is hard. You have to beat good teams in their back yard to win it."