Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has confirmed Robbie Henshaw is likely to miss around three or four months after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Henshaw damaged his shoulder while scoring his second try in Saturday’s 56-19 victory over Italy and had an operation earlier this week.
Schmidt has now confirmed he could miss up to four months, which would mean he will not feature for Leinster again this season with the Champions Cup final due to take place on May 12 and the PRO14 final set for May 26.
“It was something we feared after the game,” Schmidt admitted. “Just with the mechanism of injury but you always hope against hope that something may not have happened and you get through without any serious injury but unfortunately, that shoulder isn’t going to be good for another three-four months.”
Garry Ringrose would be a prime candidate to replace Henshaw at outside centre for Ireland against Wales on February 24, but he is still working his way back from an ankle injury and Schmidt believes the game will come a week too soon for the Leinster star.
“I don’t think Garry is going to play this weekend [for Leinster against Scarlets] at this stage but again I haven’t spoken to Leo [Cullen] since Sunday,” he said.
Leinster vs Scarlets
February 17, 2018, 3:00pm
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“That may have changed as he was making really good progress. He was on the cusp of being involved, probably a week ahead of where Sean O’Brien is at the moment.
“Garry for us, if he doesn’t play it wouldn’t necessarily rule him out. He was outstanding in the Six Nations so he would be an option. He may spend a couple of days next week with us and that will allow us to make a decision. If it’s not us, I’m pretty sure it will be Leinster [against Southern Kings] because he is due back.”
Munster’s Chris Farrell is likely to get the nod to partner Bundee Aki in the centre against Wales and Schmidt admits his squad’s depth is being tested, particularly in midfield.
“It’s a huge test,” he said. “I think people have gone past Jared Payne, who the last time we won the Six Nations played the whole time at No 13 and was unbelievably good for us.
“He was one of the guys we lost in the World Cup. Now we’re down a third centre so if you look at the strength in depth, we’re down to our fourth centre.
“It’s a great test for us. There has been a lot of focus on players other teams didn’t have but we’re always excited about who we do have and focus on who we do have.”
There was some better news on the injury front for Ireland with Schmidt confirming key forward trio Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and James Ryan should all be fit to face Wales.
Schmidt said: “I think (Furlong will be ready). He’s gone really well. Iain Henderson is probably a little bit ahead of him. Iain felt he could have played the second-half (against Italy) but we took him off as a precaution.
“At the same time, James Ryan has also made really good progress so those two are back in the mix. Tadhg ran 75 per cent speed today and did change of direction. He’s not far away from potentially being able to train fully on Tuesday.”