Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has admitted his star centre, Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, could need surgery to clear up an on-going shoulder problem.
The 32-year-old Irish legend, who recently revealed his desire to continue playing at the highest level for as long as possible, hasn't played since returning from the World Cup following his side's quarterfinal defeat to Wales in Wellington.
Schmidt was hoping to have him in his side to launch the defence of the Heineken Cup against Montpellier next weekend.
But now Schmidt fears it could take an operation to put right what has been going consistently wrong with O'Driscoll's shoulder.
"Brian has gone to some more specialists and had some more scans, so that we can either find a solution to the stinger that kind of comes and goes," said Schmidt.
"He's a fairly precious commodity, so we want to make sure we don't play him in the condition that's going to affect him in the future. We want to look after him as best we can because if we can get him right, he's a fairly handy fellah to have."
O'Driscoll missed last Friday's derby clash with Munster in Dublin, when Leinster ran out 24-19 victors to maintain their unbeaten run at the new home of Irish rugby, and he only managed to make it through the World Cup by having cortisone injections in his troublesome shoulder.
"Brian's copped a few shots where he hasn't really been ready for the contact. There was one in the Magners League final last year, which gave him a bit of whiplash," admitted Schmidt.
"That didn't help and every time we've kind of got him right, something's happened. We just want to get him back to 100 per cent."
O'Driscoll has been instrumental in helping Leinster win two Heineken Cup titles in the past three seasons and his midfield partnership with Gordon D'Arcy has given the Irish province a match winning cutting-edge for more than a decade.
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