Paul O'Connell fears age could cost him a place at next year's World Cup
Captain Paul O'Connell fears age could catch up with him and wreck his chance of leading Ireland out at next year's World Cup.
The skipper is set to turn 36 just a few days after a potential World Cup quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium next October.
The injury problems that dogged O'Connell throughout 2013 and prematurely ended his British & Irish Lions tour of Australia look to be behind him having featured in Ireland's final four matches of this year's RBS 6 Nations success.
Yet the 6ft 6in lock has revealed his concerns that the World Cup could be a step too far.
"I'd love to go to the World Cup but it's something you only want to do if you're in really good shape," he said.
"I'd love to go there with two big pre-seasons - this pre-season and next summer as well. If I could get there with those, I know I'd go in really good shape.
"It's a massive difference. Even when I look back on some of the better years that I played my best rugby, in 2005, 2006, 2008, the year of the World Cup, they are down to big pre-seasons.
"But the game is becoming tougher and tougher, it's going to be a really tough Autumn internationals and really tough Six Nations, so really the World Cup for me is a long way away."
Iain Henderson's start to the new season may have been denied by a hip injury but he's not short of support on his road to recovery - Ulster teammate Stuart Olding vowing to do all he can for the Ireland lock.