Injury shock for Ireland and Ulster as Iain Henderson ruled out for up to 12 weeks
Iain Henderson is facing up to 12 weeks on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on Monday.
The Ulster and Ireland lock took the decision to act on a thumb injury well in advance of next year's World Cup tournament in Japan.
Henderson will miss Ulster's final two European Champions Cup pool matches, a huge swathe of the PRO14 fixture list and much of Ireland's Six Nations campaign before he returns in between 10 and 12 weeks. That timescale would see Henderson return around the end of February.
The 26-year-old seems certain to miss Ireland opening three Six Nations fixtures but could be back in time to face France on March 10 and Wales on March 16. Even that would seem unlikely if he doesn't travel to Dragons with Ulster on March 3.
Perhaps a more likely return date is following the Six Nations when Ulster host Southern Kings on March 22/23. That's Ulster's fourth last game of the standard PRO14 season with trips to Glasgow and Edinburgh and a home game against Leinster to follow.
Going through the surgery now, of course, means Henderson will return in time for any play-off matches, should Ulster reach the knockout stages of either the Champions Cup or the PRO14.
Henderson scored two tries in an outstanding performance in Ulster's 30-15 win over Scarlets on Friday evening.