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Earls faces Cave contest for Drico's Irish jersey in the November internationals

IRELAND captain Brian O'Driscoll will miss Ireland's November internationals and Leinster's back-to-back matches against Clermont-Auvergne in the Heineken Cup.

He will work towards a mid-January return. This is the disastrous outcome for O'Driscoll following an awkward turn of his ankle against Cardiff Blues on Saturday night.

Despite the positive noise coming out of the Leinster and Irish camps, a scan and a specialist's review means the national record-try scorer will undergo surgery on ligament damage which will require 8-12 weeks of recovery.

The withdrawal of O'Driscoll clears the way for a tussle between Munster's Keith Earls and Ulster's Darren Cave to step into the great man's boots.

There were four three- quarters called into the Ireland squad on Sunday evening. None of them are specialist outside centres.

Earls has spoken of his preference to play at 13 rather than on the wing and he manned the outside centre berth against Italy, France, Scotland and England with varying degrees of success.

Number one hooker Rory Best has also been removed from the November series by a neck injury sustained last Friday playing in the Rabodirect Pro12 game in Wales against the Dragons.

Best has been laid low by sprained ligaments in his neck which will require a rest and rehabilitation period of between four to six weeks before a further assessment of the injury.

There is no guarantee that the hooker will then be free to return for Ulster in what is seen as the best course of managing the injury rather than opting for surgery.

It should open the door for Leinster's Richardt Strauss to begin his international career against his own South Africa at The Aviva Stadium on November 10.

Another Leinster hooker Sean Cronin was added to the Ireland squad at the weekend and he will be in line to start on the bench on Saturday week.