Amid the lengthening casualty list a scintilla of good news.
The expectation when Sean O’Brien underwent surgery on an arm broken against Argentina last November was that the luckless back row was facing the proverbial race against time to make the start of the Six Nations in early February.
Turns out that, no further ill-fortune aside, that should be well within the compass of the Leinster man who is due to return to training soon and, according to the province’s head coach Leo Cullen, could be ready to return to play in a matter of weeks.
“But we have to be careful with this crystal ball I have here,” he added.
Joe Schmidt will be happy to hear that and, while injury updates from the provinces are to be taken with an increasingly small pinch of salt, the suggestion from Leinster yesterday was that none of those missing out today against Toulouse are mid-to long-term worries.
Jonathan Sexton sits out today’s Heineken Champions Cup encounter with what is now being reported as a tendon issue in his knee. His had been listed rather vaguely as a lower leg problem and, in some places, as a calf injury.
Whatever the exact definition, he has missed a heap of training since damaging the tendon at some still unspecified point of the defeat against Munster on December 29 in Limerick but is apparently “progressing well”.
The Six Nations shouldn’t be an issue. We can but hope.
Devin Toner is ruled out today with an ankle he rolled in a lineout in training. Dan Leavy picked up a calf injury in training while Rob Kearney suffered a low grade quad injury and apparently started flagging on Tuesday.
Robbie Henshaw had offered a ray of hope earlier this week with news that he was due back in training, albeit under medical supervision, but the Ireland centre hasn’t made enough progress this weekend despite passing all “his objective markers” after a hamstring injury.
Another to fall short this weekend is Jack McGrath. The loosehead prop played for the first time since the mid-November win over New Zealand when bagging 51 minutes against Ulster last weekend but has lost out for a place on the bench to Ed Byrne.