Sam Warburton made his Wales debut in June, 2009 against United States in Chicago

Sam Warburton fears he may not he ready to play for Wales at the start of the 2018 Six Nations even if he returns before it starts in February.

He has not played since July when he led the British and Irish Lions to a drawn series against New Zealand, and had neck surgery in September.

The 29-year-old says he does not yet have a return-to-play date.

“I think if I did manage to play in the Six Nations next year then I’d see that as a big bonus,” said Warburton.

The Cardiff Blues flanker’s 2016-17 domestic season was ended on 7 April by a knee injury suffered against Ulster.

Warburton went on to play six matches – two off the bench – for the Lions in New Zealand.

He says he would “love to” play for Wales again as early as possible, but wants to ensure he is fully prepared for that level before doing so.

“I’m not going to get my hopes up for that [the Six Nations], purely because I wouldn’t have played since July and like the Lions tour showed, it took me a good four games to get up to speed there,” he added.

“So I presume I need a good month of rugby at the Blues before I can think about playing international again.”

Time out for Warburton?

Reports have linked Warburton with a sabbatical for the entire 2017-18 season