Drico itching to get back in blue
Injured star targeting Heineken Cup return for Leinster
BRIAN O'DRISCOLL has revealed that "fingers crossed" he will "play some part with Leinster" sooner rather than later.
This could mean a return to the Blues in time for a Heineken Cup semi-final or final -- results permitting, if he gets a positive assessment from his surgeon when he meets him in the next couple of weeks.
His progress against the painful nerve injury which he carried into the World Cup has been "good" and the centre has been working hard in recent weeks, with one eye on the Heineken Cup closing stages and the other on the Test series with the All Blacks in New Zealand.
O'Driscoll cannot be specific until after he sits down with his specialist and is reluctant to put a date on any return to the game until after that meeting, but is thrilled at his progress.
"I've worked hard over the last few months and hopefully, fingers crossed, I'll get to play some part with Leinster, and then with Ireland," revealed the 33-year-old yesterday.
O'Driscoll said his return to the green jersey should come "before the end of the year", but if he comes through a Leinster return safely, he would surely be on the plane to New Zealand for the summer's three Test series against the All Blacks.
The country's most famous sportsman is clearly in the mood to get back to the game which he misses, but which you suspect misses him even more.
He looks good, his body obviously not missing the pounding it would normally be receiving at this time of the year, as Ireland's Six Nation's campaign prepares for the physicalities of the Italian clash tomorrow.
The Ireland captain, who will watch this one from the comfort of his home where he can "shout at the telly", said he had done very little training up to and during the World Cup in New Zealand last year as the injury took its toll.
And he revealed he took no part in rucking practice or tackling drills during the competition itself.
"I knew I had the injury going into the World Cup. I'd been kind of carrying the injury for a couple of years," he said yesterday.
"I got a couple of bad knocks going into the Six Nations last year, and I was getting a lot of stingers, a loss of power down into the arm.
"It got progressively worse then, where I was getting tingling and then it became progressively worse again where I was getting tingling down my thumb and finger and then it became a more severe pain, which is not great.
"When I did eventually have the operation, in the end it felt strange not having that (pain) any more because it had very much become the norm.
"Then when I got separation (from the pain), in the end that was strange, because you'd go look for it and it wasn't there.
"So it was a case then of spending the summer managing it, and limiting the amount of contact I did with it during the summer, which was basically none.
"And during the World Cup not taking any contact except during the games, avoiding all rucking and drills and tackling practice, which I was (allowed) off for, and at 33 years of age taking a bit of a short cut."
O'Driscoll has had plenty to occupy him with since his spell out with injury.
When not being the face of Lexus, one of the world's top car brands, he has also dipped his toe into rugby punditry on the TV.
The public reaction was very positive and O'Driscoll looked a natural as he lined up for Sky Sports alongside All Blacks legend Sean Fitzpatrick and ex-England star Dean Ryan for the Leinster v Bath match.
However, the man himself is still not sure about it, and will reserve judgement until such a time he is at the next stage of his life -- when he retires.
"I went to test the water on that just to see if it was something I had an interest in, and the jury is still out on whether I enjoyed that day or not," he explained.
O'Driscoll is no fool though, and he freely admits he cannot become an honest appraiser until such a time as he hangs up his boots for good.
"I think I was in a difficult position in that I was talking about a team that were still involved (in the competition), which is not easy," said the Dubliner.
"For most of the games I was involved in I was very careful about what I said because you don't know what stage of the Heineken Cup you might come up against that team.
"And you don't want to give ammunition to become a target in the knockout stages of the competition," he added with a rueful smile.
"So you have to be careful not to offend anyone until the day you hang up your boots and not become a target for anyone."
So what about Ireland's chances going into the Italy game at the Aviva tomorrow?
Well, O'Driscoll believes that if Ireland can get the ball moving early and get into a fluid game plan and not get dragged in to Italy's grimier defensive game, they can do well.
"I think if we do control the game we can beat them by 10 to 15 points," he explained, before adding that it would more likely be a seven to 10-point win.
(Brian O'Driscoll was speaking at the launch of the Lexus GS450).