Ireland may have to cope without influential lock Paul O’Connell in the 2013 Six Nations with the Limerick man poised to undergo surgery to correct a back problem.
The decision to go under the knife was taken after consultation between the IRFU, the Munster medical team and the player himself.
According to a statement released by Munster the surgery will take place “at the earliest available opportunity” but no time-frame has been suggested for the second row’s return to action.
O’Connell hasn’t played since October and his career has been dogged by injuries in recent seasons with the 33-year-old missing out on Ireland’s tour of New Zealand last summer due to a knee injury.
A groin injury which needed several diagnoses saw him sidelined for nine months while the recurrence of his back injury ruled him out of the November international series.
This latest setback has also raised doubts over his participation in the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia in the summer.