Sean O'Brien says he is "ahead of schedule" in his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury and expects to be back training within two weeks.
The Leinster back-row was ruled out for the rest of the season after dislocating his shoulder against Ulster on December 28.
O'Brien told Irish radio station KCLR FM: "It's going very well. I'm back ahead of schedule and I'm just looking forward to starting my pre-season in two weeks' time.
"That'll be tough work for six or eight weeks, but it's something I'm looking forward to.
"I'm just looking forward to getting fit again and getting cracking into the year when I do get going."
O'Brien didn't feature in Ireland's Six Nations triumph, with Ulster's Chris Henry excelling at openside flanker.
Battle on his hands
And the Carlow native admits he faces a battle to win back his place in the starting line-up.
"It was tough at the start to get my head around things and I suppose, looking at last weekend it was tough," he said.
"Seeing the lads winning the championship and not being a part of that; but on the other hand I'm absolutely thrilled for the whole squad.
"We are after taking a step forward and we're playing a good brand of rugby. There's exciting times ahead I think.
"There is massive competition there in the back-row now and Chris had a great tournament, so fair play to him.
"I'll have to fight for my place when I get back and I look forward to that."