IRELAND'S back three injury crisis deepened yesterday with the worrying news that Tommy Bowe has picked up a knee injury ahead of next month's Six Nations.
The Ospreys winger was forced to pull out of today's Heineken Cup clash with Toulon and, with Rob Kearney and Geordan Murphy on the long-term injury list, Ireland coach Declan Kidney has serious concerns about the composition of his back three for the clash with Italy in Rome on February 5.
"We've withdrawn Tommy on medical grounds, pending further investigation and specialist opinion for a knee problem," said Ospreys physiotherapist Chris Towers.
"Due to the onset of some recent symptoms, we scanned him this week, which highlighted an issue that could potentially develop into something problematic.
"We notified the Irish medical team, and next week we should be able to establish the most appropriate course of treatment for the problem and to confirm whether it will interfere with Tommy's involvement in the Six Nations with Ireland."
Bowe was one of the options available to Kidney to slot in at full-back in the absence of Kearney and Murphy, although Luke Fitzgerald has been touted for that role.
Shane Horgan has been in excellent form for Leinster and would be an option on the right wing, while his team-mate Fergus McFadden, unlucky to miss out on the Six Nations squad this week, could also come into the equation.
That, in turn, could present an opportunity for Connacht's Fionn Carr in the Wolfhounds squad.