Dublin - Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll is to undergo surgery for a trapped nerve in his shoulder next week and is expected to be out of action for up to six months, his province Leinster confirmed on Monday.
The Leinster centre, who struggled with a shoulder problem throughout the World Cup and missed Friday's game against Munster, is now set to miss the Six Nations and the Irish province's bid to retain the European Cup.
Leinster said in a statement: "It has been confirmed that Brian O'Driscoll will undergo surgery next week for a trapped nerve in his shoulder which is expected to rule the Ireland captain out for up to six months."
The loss of O'Driscoll will be a big blow for the province who have been without the 32-year-old since Ireland's Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat against Wales in Wellington.
O'Driscoll, who earned the first of his 117 Ireland caps in 1999, will now face a race against time to return to fitness before the end of the season.
The Leinster centre is Ireland's record try scorer and in 2011 he broke the 78-year-old record set by Scotland's Ian Smith as the all-time Five/Six Nations top try scorer when he crossed for his 25th championship try against England.
Leinster will begin the defence of their European Cup crown against Montpellier on Saturday.