Josh van der Flier has been ruled out for the rest of the season after sustaining a knee injury in the opening fixture of Ireland’s NatWest Six Nations campaign.
The Wicklow-native flanker was forced out of the game against France on Saturday after suffering the injury in the first half.
In a short statement, the IRFU said: “Josh van der Flier has been ruled out for the rest of the season having picked up a knee injury in the opening match of the NatWest 6 Nations on Saturday.
“The flanker sustained a serious knee ligament injury during the match and was replaced by Dan Leavy.”
The injury means that Leavy will be favourite to start at seven in the absence of both Sean O’Brien and van der Flier, while Jordi Murphy may also be considered to play against Italy at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.
As a result of a minor operation on his hip, O’Brien has been forced to sit out the early rounds of the tournament but may be in line to return for the latter stages, including Ireland’s final day match against England in Twickenham on St. Patrick’s Day.
In other team news, Dave Kilcoyne has re-joined the squad while Jack O’Donoghue and Barry Daly will train with the squad during the early part of this week.
Elsewhere, James Cronin has returned to Limerick in order to obtain some game minutes with Munster in the Guinness Pro14 this weekend when they host Zebre on Saturday.