IRELAND full-back Rob Kearney will be out of action with a disc problem in his back which requires surgery tomorrow.
IT WILL come as a serious blow to Ireland coach Declan Kidney as the leading rugby nations jostle for World Cup ranking points in the November international series.
This is a simple procedure which he will undergo tomorrow on a disc which is pressing against a nerve in his back. It has been an ongoing problem for more than a year.
Kearney chose to manage the issue which caused shooting pains down his leg in order to go to the World Cup in New Zealand, play through the Six Nations last year and be a central player in Leinster’s drive towards a third Heineken Cup in four years.
Every possible course of action outside surgery was pursued right up until Monday. It was then that Kearney conceded that he had no other option but to go under the knife.
He will not be back for Ireland’s November internationals or Leinster’s crucial Heineken Cup back-to-back clashes with Clermont-Auvergne and could be out for a possible ten weeks.
The current European Player of the Year was also in line for a shot at the World Player of the Year short list if he was to show his proven class against South Africa and Argentina in November.
There could be an opening for Connacht’s 19-year-old bolter Robbie Henshaw to make a late charge for the Ireland squad.
He has shown exemplary form for the Western Province just weeks after his club coach Eric Elwood claimed: “he will play for Ireland”.
Ireland coach Kidney today left a vacancy at full-back, with Henshaw and Munster’s Denis Hurley in contention, Connacht captain Gavin Duffy is injured, while Geordan Murphy has retired from international rugby.
Leinster’s next best full-back Isa Nacewa has been ruled out for 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his hand suffered against The Scarlets last Saturday.
The previously injury-free back-three Fijian has grown to be a cult hero of Leinster fans for his high levels of performance and his versatility for moving between wing and full-back.
Nacewa will be a borderline case to make the Clermont matches.
This double blow for Leinster suddenly makes natural fly-half Ian Madigan one of the most indispensible players in the club, seeing how he has operated from full-back in the first two Heineken Cup matches at home to Exeter Chiefs and away to The Scarlets.
In a strange twist of fate, the injury to Kearney will make room for his younger brother Dave - he can play full-back or wing - to make a smooth transition back into the Leinster fold, perhaps starting at home to Cardiff Blues in the Pro12 on Saturday.
The Louth man played exactly two minutes in the last of his 22 appearances last season, starting 19 times, including once in the Heineken Cup for just shy of 1,500 minutes of action. No wonder his body ached for medical attention.
Since then, he has undergone surgery on both of his hips in June, to deal with “a cartilage tear in the hip joints, to fix that up and get a bit of bone carved off,” he said.
“It is nothing new. It was an easy procedure. Sean (O’Brien) and Rhys (Ruddock) had the same thing. I was weight bearing after a couple of days, on crutches for a time.
“For anybody with an injury, it is always frustrating, especially when the big games come along. When you are watching them, you wish you were out there.”