O’Driscoll set to lift Ireland

Ireland’s Six Nations hopes (9/2 – Tournament Outright) have received a boost with the news that inspirational captain and Leinster star Brian O’Driscoll is on the verge of a return from injury.

The experienced centre has been out of action since sustaining an ankle ligament injury in October.

He subsequently underwent surgery and was ruled out of Ireland’s autumn internationals and his chances of being fit for the Six Nations were rated as slim.

However, the 33-year-old returned to training with club side Leinster (11/1 to retain Heineken Cup) earlier this month and is now in line for a return to action against Edinburgh in the RaboDirect PRO12 on January 4.

Fellow internationals Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald could return in the same match, according to Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt.

“We’d be confident of Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald getting back for Edinburgh,” he said.

The imminent return of the influential trio will come as a welcome relief to Ireland coach Declan Kidney as he prepares his squad for an important Six Nations campaign.

He is already without winger Tommy Bowe, flanker Stephen Ferris and lock Paul O’Connell.

Ireland have finished third in the last two tournaments and need a good season to re-establish themselves as a force in European rugby.

Last week O’Driscoll played down his chances of being fit for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff on February 2.

“I’m due to come back and play towards the end of January. I’m hoping to be back before that, but I don’t know,” he said.

Now the talisman could lead his team out at the Millennium Stadium.

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