Drico return is hit for Six
Heineken dates and battle with Wales a doubt for Blues legend
BRIAN O'DRISCOLL could very well miss out on Rounds Five and Six of the Heineken Cup and Ireland's crucial first Six Nations match away to Wales with his ankle injury.
By then, it could be too late for Leinster to rescue their perilous situation in Pool Five and for Ireland to repeat their Grand Slam feat of 2009.
"It is on track. I am due to come back and play towards the end of January. That is 11 or 12 weeks. I would be hopeful to play a fraction before that. Just when that is I don't know," he said.
This puts him right on the borderline of Rounds Five (January 12) and Six (January 19) of the Heineken Cup. If he does make either or both, he will go in cold to his first start since the last week in October.
Could he miss them? "I suppose I could. I really haven't thought about five and six at the moment.
"You have the occasional day that you get a little reality check. For the most part, it has been a pretty good rehab process."
In terms of the team, O'Driscoll holds firm to the idea that Leinster have built an environment based on the legacy of three Heineken Cups in four years and the professionalism of the players and coaching staff.
"We will not go down without a fight. You can be absolutely sure about that. It is stacked against us. But never-say-never," he said, in relation to their mathematical difficulties in Pool Five.
"We've got a mentality now that we are relentless and that we never give up. We'll see what comes of that in the end."
Ireland will begin their Six Nations at the Millennium Stadium against one of their two current European bogey teams Wales on January 2. That is also there looming like a monster carrot.
"The first one is always important. It is all about building momentum. Wales in Cardiff is a tough place to go. They will want to start well too, particularly after their November series.
"They've lost seven on the bounce which is very unlike them. Six Nations is very, very hard. You've got to beat good teams in their back garden to win it."
He refuses to contemplate the meaning of missing out on the end of the Heineken Cup pool or the Six Nations.
It could just be too much to bare.
"I am not aiming at anything at the moment. I am just going day-on-day, session-on-session. The thing is when you have an operation, it has to knit. I can't hurry that up any.
"I can do all the necessary things. But healing is going on there that no matter how much work I do, I am not in control of it. I have to be patient for that to take properly.
"When that is secure and I am given the go-ahead from the specialist that is the mindset you need to be able to go out and forget about the injury."
The injuries have come and gone. O'Driscoll has had to handle his fair share of time away from the game he has decorated with his brilliance for over 13 seasons.
"You set yourself little targets, small little goals along the way. There comes a time when you have to be selfish and worry about yourself which is fairly unique to our team sport."
Ireland's ultimate competitors O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell have had to sit and twiddle their thumbs as their provinces make do without them.
"It is difficult. I have always said that injury is a no-win. When they're going well they don't miss you and when they're struggling you feel as though you could give them a helping hand," said O'Driscoll.
"It is definitely the hardest part of what we do. Sometimes you have to look at injuries in a positive light. It gives you a chance to freshen up and go again for what, hopefully, will be a big six months."
For O'Driscoll to have an impact in the PRO12 League, Leinster will have to keep a top-two finish in sight. Ulster stand in their path in Belfast tonight.
"We've got to stay in the hunt in the Rabo. If we lose more distance on Ulster, we're not going to catch them," he said.
"I think people have seen the calibre of player Jared Payne is this season.
"He was lost after a couple of games last year (with a ruptured Achilles).
"Nick Williams has been big for them, (Iain) Henderson coming through, (Luke) Marshall coming through, Paul Marshall playing well.
"There are a lot of guys individually playing well. But, as a collective, they've knitted extremely well and understand what way they want to play the game.
"Whatever it is, 13 out of 14 victories in a season is pretty good going up to Christmas time."
O'Driscoll will put his feet up for Christmas. He would like to do that with a win over Ulster as his most recent Leinster memory.