Ireland captain Johnny Sexton faces a race against time to be fit for his side’s Guinness Six Nations opener after suffering a facial injury.
The fly-half has had a procedure on his cheekbone after sustaining the injury in Leinster’s 41-12 victory over Connacht on New Year’s Day when making a tackle on Jarrad Buttler.
Leinster have not set a date for any potential return, but with the start of the 2023 Championship now just one month away, Sexton is a major doubt for Ireland’s opener against Wales in Cardiff.
Andy Farrell will be desperate to see his talisman return at least in time for Round 2, as Ireland return to Dublin to face France in what is set to be one of the games of the Championship.
The 37-year-old has enjoyed a glittering career on the international stage, earning 109 caps and winning three Guinness Six Nations titles, including the Grand Slam in 2018.
The one thing missing from his bulging trophy cabinet is a World Cup, and he will be hoping to be a part of Ireland’s campaign later this year in France.
There is also bad news for France, who have seen centre Jonathan Danty ruled out of the entire Championship due to a knee injury picked up in La Rochelle’s feisty victory over Perpignan in the Top 14.
The 30-year-old suffered a ruptured posterior cruciate ligament and will miss at least three months.
It is a huge blow for Fabien Galthié, for whom Danty has become a vitally important member of the backline, starring in their Grand Slam last year.
Les Bleus kick start their title defence in Rome before that daunting trip to the Aviva Stadium a week after.
France will not be the only ones missing a key midfield figure in Rome as Italian fly-half turned centre Paolo Garbisi is set to miss at least the first two rounds with a knee injury.
The 22-year-old starlet endured a sprained internal ligament in his knee during Montpellier’s 40-10 defeat to Bordeaux-Begles on Friday night.
His club have since revealed he will be out of action for between six and eight weeks, almost certainly ruling him out of the opening three rounds, but potentially allowing him to return after the second rest week where Italy host Wales before visiting Scotland.