The 32-year-old has not played since the World Cup quarter-final defeat against Wales last month and is set to undergo surgery for a trapped nerve in his shoulder next week.
The centre, who recently revealed his intention to bow out of the game after the 2013 Lions Tour to Australia, is likely to be out of action for up to six months and faces a race to be fit in time to take any part in Leinster’s Heineken Cup defence.
“The shoulder has become uncomfortable over the last eight months and has just got progressively worse,” said Ireland’s record try-scorer. “I certainly see myself coming back from this and playing another season.
“I have been out for six months before so I know how to cope with these things – it’s about keeping fit and involved. The danger of being away for six months is that you could be totally forgotten about.”