Ireland have been handed a boost with the news that Iain Henderson will make his return from injury for Ulster this week, opening up the possibility he could feature in the latter part of the Guinness Six Nations.
The second row missed the clashes with England and Scotland as he recovered from a hand injury.
That followed a separate hand injury that had previously kept him on the sidelines, but Henderson now looks to be back up to speed and will start for Ulster in Friday’s Guinness PRO14 clash with the Ospreys.
Earlier in the week Ulster assistant coach Dan Soper had said: “He is coming along really well.
“Until the medics give him the all clear he will keep progressing towards getting fully stuck in (with contact), but he has been able to do a lot of conditioning obviously and a lot of (skills) with me, able to use one hand. He is progressing along nicely.”
Henderson’s return comes at the ideal time for Ireland, who lost Devin Toner to injury for the clash with Scotland.
In his absence Quinn Roux performed very well, calling Ireland’s lineout and producing an all-action display at the breakdown.
And Joe Schmidt will be thrilled to have the possibility of calling on both Henderson and Roux, along with James Ryan and Ultan Dillane for the Round Three trip to Italy.
Ireland currently sit fourth in the table after two games, but bounced back from an opening day loss to England with success in Scotland.