Ireland second row Tadhg Beirne has been ruled out of the remainder of the Six Nations with an ankle injury sustained against France on Saturday.
Beirne, 31, limped off in the second half of Ireland’s 32-19 win over France at the Aviva Stadium.
The IRFU confirmed he will need surgery which is likely to keep him out of action for 12 weeks.
Beirne will miss Ireland’s remaining fixtures against Italy, Scotland and England.
In more positive news for head coach Andy Farrell, captain Johnny Sexton and hookers Rob Herring and Dan Sheehan may be available for the trip to Italy on 25 February.
Sexton is rehabilitating from the groin he injured against France, Herring is undergoing return-to-play protocols following a high tackle from France prop Uini Atonio, while fellow hooker Sheehan is recovering well from his hamstring problem.
Defence coach Simon Easterby provided a positive update about prop Tadhg Furlong, who missed the opening two games with a calf injury.
“He’s in a really good place but he knows his own body and understands how that works,” Easterby said of the Leinster tighthead.
“We’re very hopeful, and so is he, that he will be involved at some point during this Six Nations.
“But it’s the sort of injury, like a lot of soft-tissue injuries, that you want to make sure you don’t get wrong.
“You want to make sure you get it right and they feel like they’ve got enough in the bank in terms of exposure to the high intensity of the game.”
Henderson could replace Beirne
Beirne had started the previous 14 matches for Ireland under head coach Andy Farrell and left the game against France on crutches.
The Munster player will also be forced to sit out United Rugby Championship fixtures and will miss the province’s Heineken Champions Cup last-16 tie at Sharks in April.
Ulster captain Iain Henderson replaced Beirne against France and could partner James Ryan against Italy.
However, Leinster pair Ryan Baird and Joe McCarthy and Connacht’s Cian Prendergast are the other options available to Farrell.
Grand Slam-chasing Ireland sit top of the Six Nations table before a round-three trip to Italy in Rome on 25 February.
Ireland are already without Robbie Henshaw, Furlong, Jamison Gibson-Park and Cian Healy.
Source – BBC News
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