Keith Wood: is not ready to hang up his boots just yet

KEITH WOOD insisted last night he is not despondent at his latest serious injury setback and said he could be back to challenge for a place in the latter stages of the Six Nations.

Wood underwent surgery on his right shoulder at the weekend and while the operation was success, it is unlikely he will be unable to play for eight weeks at the earliest. Ireland play Wales on March 22 and England eight days later.

"I am not too despondent because the operation went well," said the 31 year-old hooker whose season has been blighted by injury "All the mess in there was cleaned up and there was no need for any structural work. It could have been a lot worse because if the tendons were damaged, then it could have been the end."

Wood revealed there is "absolutely no connection" between the back injury that has almost completely sidelined him since Ireland's World Cup qualifiers in September and the latest problem. However, he said the current injury is almost certainly related to the shoulder damage that also interfered with his career in the mid 1990s.

"There has been a lot of wear and tear in the meantime," he said. "I came on for 20 minutes in the Harlequins game against Leeds on December 22 and I was hardly out there when I got this awful knock on the shoulder and I knew straight away that something was wrong."

Oddly enough, however, it was that short period of time on the pitch that convinced Woody he still had a lot of rugby left in him.

"I just loved every minute of it," he said from his home in Richmond, London, where he lives with wife Nicola and three-month-old son Alexander.

"I had a great time out there and didn't realise until then how much I was missing the game. But the days are long gone when I would rush back from injury. I will now do my eight weeks of rehab and then get back to playing.

"Of course my season has been cursed by injury after injury and I can understand people thinking that my career must be finished. But why think of stopping now? I always insisted I would know when the time had come. Obviously, being fully fit for the World Cup is very much in my thoughts but I'm still looking at the last few games in the Six Nations.

"Naturally, I would like to play against England. I keep in regular contact with Eddie [O'Sullivan, the Irish coach] and feel very much involved in the Irish set-up Harlequins' team manager Mike Scott is also hoping the Clare native makes a swift recovery.

"It is disappointing and frustrating for Keith that he has suffered this minor problem so soon after coming back from his previous injury. However, we look forward to seeing Keith back in action as soon as he is fit."

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