Luke McGrath's Six Nations involvement may be over before it has begun with confirmation on Monday that the Leinster scrum-half has suffered a knee ligament injury and faces up to eight weeks out of action.
Eight weeks would certainly rule the number nine out of the opening three rounds of the tournament and leave him scrambling for game time before the last two. If there is a silver lining it is that his absence isn't even longer.
McGrath should certainly be back in blue for the knock-out stages of the Heineken Champions Cup post-Six Nations and that will give him ample time to battle for an Ireland squad place at the forthcoming World Cup in Japan.
His absence this next few months reduces Joe Schmidt's short-term options in the position at a time when Ulster's John Cooney and Connacht's Kieran Marmion are also unavailable. Schmidt names his initial Six Nations squad tomorrow (Wednesday).
Marmion is expected back from surgery on an ankle in time for the Six Nations but the picture with Cooney, who sat out Ulster's game against Racing 92 last weekend with a back injury, is less clear. That leaves Conor Murray as the only fit and standing capped scrum-half right now.
Jamison Gibson-Park will deputise for McGrath when Leinster travel to Coventry to face Wasps in the last round of the pool stages this weekend and the province has added young Paddy Patterson to their European squad as cover for the Kiwi and Hugh O'Sullivan.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Sexton has been deemed unavailable for the weekend's encounter due to a knee tendon injury which has sidelined him since the defeat to Munster late last month.
Leinster say that Sexton that was 'close' to making this one but it seems that, with Ross Byrne in such strong form and the team playing so well, there was a reluctance to push the world player of the year needlessly at this point.
Forwards coach John Fogarty has echoed senior coach Stuart Lancaster who last week insisted that Sexton's injury was not serious and not something that puts him in jeopardy for Ireland's Six Nations opener, against England, on February 2nd.
Meanwhile, Leinster may have a handful of other frontline players back and available for the imminent visit to England having done without ten internationals for the 29-13 defeat of Toulouse at the RDS last Saturday lunchtime.
Devin Toner, Robbie Henshaw and Sean O'Brien have all returned to training and are due to be assessed further as the week wears on. Rob Kearney (low grade quad) and Dan Leavy (calf) are also training but, similarly, due to be assessed.