Ireland centre Jared Payne will be out of action for at least three months after being forced off the field at half-time against Australia last weekend.
The medical teams with the international squad and with his Ulster club carried out intensive examinations and the 31-year-old suffered kidney damage during a bruising encounter.
He seems certain to miss most, if not all, of the Six Nations Championship in the New Year, while Ulster has been immediately denied arguably its most influential back for the back-to-back Champions Cup games with French giants Clermont as the province attempts to salvage qualification for the knockout stages in Europe.
And Payne, who has missed much of the last 12 months since being injured in the World Cup, won’t be available for vital matches in the Guinness Pro12 before the end of 2016 against Connacht and Leinster.
His international and Ulster team-mate Andrew Trimble, another to limp out of the action at the Aviva, will also miss the games with Clermont as he recovers from a damaged tendon in his foot, but it’s anticipated the winger could return for the Pro12 game in Galway in three weeks.
“Jared and Andrew wouldn’t have been considered for this week’s league game in Cardiff in any case,” said Ulster assistant coach Allen Clarke. “Player management is something we at Ulster take very seriously, but to lose anyone at this stage of the season is clearly not what we would have liked given our schedule.”
Full-back Rob Kearney was another to leave the action against Australia early as Ireland’s backline was completely redesigned in the second-half.
The Leinster player’s prospects of being available for the Champions Cup clash with Northampton are brighter, the Irish medical update emphasising his removal was precautionary.
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