Mike Ross in race to be fit for Six Nations
Ireland could be forced to do without Mike Ross for a Six Nations game for the first time since 2010 after Leinster revealed he is facing six weeks on the sidelines due to a “high grade” hamstring strain suffered against Toulon.
The Cork native has had a stranglehold on the No3 jersey since making his Championship debut against Italy in February 2011 and has been fit to start every one of their 24 Six Nations games since, anchoring the scrum for the title wins this and last year.
Ross turned 36 yesterday but has spoken of his desire to continue at the highest level for as long as possible, but his absence could open the door for fellow veteran Nathan White who was his back-up during this year’s World Cup or his provincial colleagues Marty Moore and Tadhg Furlong to make their mark.
It is a further blow for Joe Schmidt who looks set to stay loyal to a host of the players who have soldiered with him during his first two seasons in charge as the new World Cup cycle begins, but is already coping without Peter O’Mahony, Ian Henderson and Tommy Bowe for the tournament as he also looks to replace his retired captain Paul O’Connell.
There was some good news for the Ireland coach yesterday with Leinster operations manager Guy Easterby indicating that Sean O’Brien could come back into the frame for Sunday’s festive visit to Thomond Park to face Munster. The flanker hasn’t played since the November 15 defeat to Wasps due to an inner-ear problem.
Johnny Sexton is a doubt for the Munster game after suffering a recurrence of the quad muscle injury that ended his World Cup involvement. He will sit out training early in the week, but has not been ruled out.
Leo Cullen should have all of his fit internationals available, but could be without Cian Healy whose appeal against his two-game ban for dangerous charging during the first of Leinster’s two Toulon defeats will be heard on Wednesday.