DUBLIN, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Ireland lock Paul O'Connell will miss the Six Nations championship after a back operation on Monday but hopes to return in early April in time for the British and Irish Lions' tour of Australia starting in June.
O'Connell who captained the Lions during their last tour in South Africa four years ago, has played only two games for his provincial side Munster this season and last started for Ireland during last year's Six Nations.
The 33-year-old lock, who has been dogged by injury in recent years, underwent surgery on his back for the second time on Monday and said the operation had gone well.
"My aim now is to start rehab as soon as is practicable. In terms of a return, I'd be looking at early April," O'Connell told Munster's website (www.munsterrugby.ie) on Tuesday.
Tommy Bowe has also been ruled out of the Six Nations championship, which Ireland begin in Wales on Feb. 2, because of a knee injury. However the Ulster wing should also return in April in time for possible inclusion in Lions' coach Warren Gatland's squad for Australia. (Reporting by Padriac Halpin; Editing by John Mehaffey)