Ireland will have to do without Garry Ringrose in Paris next weekend as they chase a Guinness Six Nations title.
The Leinster centre came off during the first-half of today's clash with Italy at the Aviva Stadium and head coach Andy Farrell has confirmed that the player suffered a broken jaw and is now out for the next month at the very least.
“He's been so good for us the last ten days, he has been absolutely fantastic with his leadership, and he was a big part of the reason why we got what we wanted out of today,” said Farrell after the 50-17 win in Dublin.
“He was unfortunate with his thumb injury (suffered against Scotland) earlier in the Six Nations and he has come back and had a setback like that which will keep him out for 4-6 weeks so we're gutted for Garry.”
That aside, there are no injury worries for Farrell as his side prepare to put this delayed 2020 tournament to bed against the French next Saturday night. Win with a try bonus point and the title is theirs. Easier said than done obviously.
“Well, I mean, if we defend like we defended for most of that match we'll give ourselves a chance,” said Farrell. “We talked about creating our own energy and our own atmosphere and all that comes from your work ethic and trying to win the ball back and I thought that was fantastic.”
It wasn't all sweetness and light for Ireland against the Azzurri. Conor Murray spent ten minutes in the sinbin early on and they failed to make any inroads in a third quarter which threatened to undo so much of their good work prior to the break.
The concession of a late converted try to Paulo Garbisi wasn't the ending they wanted and hurts their score difference but this was a very good day's work in what was a first game for the national team since the competition was put on hold last spring.
Four men made debuts with Will Connors claiming a try and the man of the match award while Hugo Keenan grabbed a brace of tries and denied a third with a harsh call against James Ryan for obstruction,
Ed Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park came off the bench to earn their first caps and both adapted to the test environment instantly.
“I thought they was excellent. Superb. We asked them to be themselves and not just hope that things go well. You've got to create stuff and be yourself and back yourself and I thought every one of them to a man did that.
“Obviously Hugo and Will got to play the full game and their work ethic was fabulous. It's what we would expect of them and what we see them doing week in and week out. It would be interesting to see Hugo's GPS and Will's tackle count. The energy that they gave the side was exactly what we wanted of them and for Ed to come off the bench and get stuck in, not just try to fit in and hope that things go well.
"Like I said before, they were being themselves and Jamo came on and hit a nice little kick over the defensive line. That was great. To see them all was great and they kept the continuity going. Great to get them all underway and I'm sure those are the first of many.”