Cork - Ireland lock Paul O'Connell will miss the Six Nations after undergoing surgery to correct a bulging disc in his back.
However, O'Connell should be in contention for a spot in the British and Irish Lions squad to tour Australia starting in June, after targeting a return to action with Irish province Munster in April.
The 33-year-old O'Connell said on Tuesday "in terms of a return, I'd be looking at early April when hopefully Munster will be in contention for trophies on two fronts (Heineken Cup and Celtic League)."
It is the third time in his career that O'Connell, the former Ireland and Lions captain, has had a disc problem in his lower back.
The Six Nations runs from February 2 to March 16.