Ireland are confident they can avoid a second successive defeat in Rome against Italy even if they are denied the services of the best half-back partnership in world rugby.
With out-half Jonny Sexton already stood down on concussion grounds from the February 7 tie at Stadio Olimpico, and Conor Murray still struggling with a neck injury and unable to take contact in training, Ireland may have to test their half-back reserve strength.
Ian Madigan will be given an immediate chance this Friday to recover from last weekend's kicking woes for Leinster, when he failed with four of seven attempts, while Isaac Boss and Kieran Marmion are jostling for the No 9 role, with Eoin Reddan also struggling with injury.
"It's an issue because of the fact you might be going into your first game without the two half-backs who played there last year but an issue which would give other guys an opportunity," said Ireland assistant coach Richie Murphy.
"Ian Keatley has been playing very well for Munster over the last while. Kieran Marmion, and Isaac Boss, in the cameos when he's started for Leinster has been very good. It's a distraction.
"It will give us an opportunity to look at those other guys. They are all good players. We would be very confident whoever has to step will be able to do the job.
"Although Ian was bitterly disappointed after the Wasps game last weekend, you would back him to bounce back straight away because although things like that affect him in the immediate term, within a couple of days he'll move on."
Murphy expressed surprise at Madigan's revelation last week that he was already thinking ahead to the Italy game.
"Did he? It shouldn't have been an issue. He was there in the middle of a big game. He has to deal with what's in front of him."