Relief for Joe Schmidt as Robbie Henshaw should make Six Nations
Centre expected to be fit in time for the Six Nations but Jackson, Olding ruled out
Robbie Henshaw is expected to overcome his ankle problem in time for Ireland's Six Nations opener against Italy on February 7.
The Connacht centre is likely to have a fortnight off in order to prepare for the Rome clash after being ruled out of the province's Challenge Cup trip to La Rochelle this weekend.
Henshaw played through the pain barrier after suffering the injury in the early stages of the Westerners' defeat to Exeter Chiefs on Sunday, but despite early fears it has been diagnosed as a "low-grade sprain" and shouldn't keep him out of the tournament.
The news comes as welcome relief for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, who will name his Six Nations squad tomorrow amid growing injury concerns.
It remains to be seen if Cian Healy and Sean O'Brien are ready for inclusion after Leinster resisted the urge to include the pair in their Champions Cup squad for Saturday’s crucial game against Wasps. Matt O'Connor had the option of registering one of the two impact players for the Ricoh Arena mission, but Leinster opted not to risk them in such a big game.
While Ireland hopefuls Nathan White and Iain Henderson are set to return to action for their provinces this weekend, there was bad news for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who will miss the Six Nations with elbow injuries they suffered in action for Ulster against Toulon last weekend.
Jackson injury further limits Schmidt's out-half options for the Italy game, with Johnny Sexton set to miss the opener due to his repeated concussions during 2014. It now looks as if the battle for the No 10 shirt is a straight shootout between Leinster's Ian Madigan and Munster’s Ian Keatley.
Simon Zebo and Conor Murray are also in a race to be fit for Rome.
Zebo suffered an ankle strain in the closing stages of Munster's defeat to Saracens last Saturday and will be monitored. His injury appears to be less serious than the one suffered by his team-mate CJ Stander, who will go for scans and is expected to miss Sunday's meeting with Sale Sharks.
Murray is also unlikely to be risked for that game after straining his neck against Zebre two weeks ago. Munster coach Anthony Foley will give an update on his fitness in Limerick today.
Last season's player of the year Andrew Trimble and Leinster flanker Rhys Ruddock are scheduled to return midway through the Six Nations, while Donnacha Ryan is back running but, like Healy and O'Brien, all three will have a job on their hands to convince Schmidt of their readiness.