Ireland Rugby
O'Connell set to miss Six Nations and Lions tour
ESPN Staff
December 30, 2012
Ireland lock Paul O'Connell attempts a charge-down, France v Ireland, Six Nations, Stade de France, Paris, France, March 4, 2012
Paul O'Connell has struggled with a back injury in recent seasons © Getty Images

Ireland lock Paul O'Connell is set to undergo back surgery that could end his season and any hopes of touring Australia with the British & Irish Lions next summer.

Munster confirmed on Saturday night that their skipper, who has not played since October, will have surgery at the "earliest opportunity" after failing to overcome a series of back problems which have plagued him in recent seasons.

The Irish Province had hoped to delay any such action until he had seen a specialist in the New Year. However, following a consultation between the Munster and Irish Rugby Football Union medical staff and the player, the decision was made to go ahead with the surgery.

Therefore O'Connell is set to miss Ireland's Six Nations campaign, which starts at the beginning of February, as well as the rest of Munster's RaboDirect Pro12 and Heineken Cup campaigns.

The 33-year-old must also now be considered as a real doubt for the Lions tour to Australia. The Irishman captained the Lions on the 2009 tour of South Africa and was among the leading candidates to skipper them in the three-Test series against the Wallabies.

A statement from Munster read: "Following consultation between IRFU and Munster medical staff and the player himself, it has been decided that Paul O'Connell will undergo back surgery at the earliest opportunity."

O'Connell missed Ireland's summer tour to New Zealand with a knee injury. He trained with the Irish squad ahead of this year's autumn internationals and appeared ready to return to the international fold, only for his back problems to flare up.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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