Robbie Henshaw's season could be over as Joe Schmidt admits Ireland's depth is being tested
Joe Schmidt has confirmed that Robbie Henshaw will miss between three and four months which means his season could be over.
The Ireland coach oversaw training at Henshaw's home club of Buccaneers in Athlone this morning before holding a press conference in the clubhouse.
Iain Henderson and Tadhg Furlong performed running drills away from the rest of the squad as they rehabilitated their hamstring issues, while James Ryan played no part in the session as he continues to nurse a groin problem.
Schmidt hopes to have all three training on Tuesday ahead of the visit of Wales.
Twenty Ireland players trained at the midlands venue with the U-20s providing opposition, with the starting XV from the win over Italy joined by Joey Carbery, Jordi Murphy, Cian Healy, Fergus McFadden and Niall Scannell who was not in the squad for the first two Six Nations games against France and Italy.
Chris Farrell is likely to deputise for Henshaw next weekend, with Schmidt confirming that Garry Ringrose may come in to Ireland camp next week but wouldn't feature for Leinster this week.
"It was something we feared after the game," Schmidt said of Henshaw who required a shoulder operation this week.
"Just with the mechanism of injury but you always hope against hope that something may not have happened and you get through without any serious injury but unfortunately, that shoulder isn't going to be good for another three-four months.
"I think (Furlong will be ready). He's gone really well. Iain Henderson is probably a little bit ahead of him. Iain felt he could have played the second-half (against Italy) but we took him off as a precaution.
"You saw him working with Tadhg there, he's pretty much 100%.
"We are just kind of staging their re-entry. Iain could have trained today but he's also played a lot of minutes so we're just managing him.
"At the same time, James Ryan has also made really good progress so those two are back in the mix. Tadhg ran 75% speed today and did change of direction. He's not far away from potentially being able to train fully on Tuesday.
"Iain just had a bit of tightening in his hamstring and his quad. Had a bit of a bump in the leg as well which just causes it to be a bit tight.
"As I say, he could have played on and we're managing him at the moment. We thought initially he'd train fully today but the ground is very soft and it means those hamstring, quad and glute muscles get worked very hard in those conditions.
"At least we've got a bit of time and we can get a little bit of preparation done with combinations. That may extend to a couple of guys coming in next week to build a bit of depth in a couple of positions as well. "
Schmidt conceded that Furlong is a key player for his side ahead of the meeting with Wales on Saturday week.
"He's a starting player for the Lions, that speaks volumes for the progress he has made over the last couple of years and at the same time, John Ryan and Andrew Porter have played a fair bit for us," he said.
"What you've got to have is depth in your squad and you've got to have confidence in that depth and that's what we'll go to now. If it's not required that's all well and good but if it is, we'll keep forging ahead with the players we have available."
And he said Ringrose is close to a return to action next week for Leinster if not for Ireland.
"I don't think Garry is going to play this weekend at this stage but again I haven't spoken to Leo (Cullen) since Sunday," he said.
"That may have changed as he was making really good progress. He was on the cusp of being involved, probably a week ahead of where Sean O'Brien is at the moment.
"Garry for us, if he doesn't play it wouldn't necessarily rule him out. He was outstanding in the Six Nations so he would be an option. He may spend a couple of days next week with us and that will allow us to make a decision. If it's not us, I'm pretty sure it will be Leinster (v Southern Kings) because he is due back."
He conceded that the squad’s depth is being tested sorely in this campaign, particularly in midfield.
"It's a huge test," he said.
"I think people have gone past Jared Payne, who the last time we won the Six Nations played the whole time at No 13 and was unbelievably good for us.
"He was one of the guys we lost in the World Cup. Now we're down a third centre so if you look at the strength in depth, we're down to our fourth centre.
"It's a great test for us. There has been a lot of focus on players other teams didn't have but we're always excited about who we do have and focus on who we do have.
“It was a lot of glossing over the 12 guys we had unavailable but at the same time there was a lot of excitement about people saying we were in really good shape. If we can keep people positive despite losing Josh van der Flier on top of not having Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien, Tommy O'Donnell, I think we're in a pretty good place. I think we'll all be watching against Wales and find out a little bit.”