12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Former Leinster hooker Gavin Hickie will join Leicester Tigers in the summer, linking up with a growing band of Irish players at the Welford Road club.
Hickie has signed a two-year deal with the two-time Heineken Cup champions this week, and is "thrilled" at the opportunity the contract presents him with.
The 25-year-old Dubliner said: "I'm thrilled to get this chance. Leicester is a massive, massive club and its record speaks for itself. The opportunity to be part of the Leicester was too good to turn down. But I'm very sad to be leaving Worcester (Warriors). I didn't know anyone when I went there and I've fallen in love with the place.
"That made it a tough decision to make, but you can't refuse when Leicester come calling. Playing for Leicester will present a lot more opportunities in big games next season," he told the Tigers website.
With his former Leinster team mates Shane Jennings and Leo Cullen, as well as Ireland and Lions star Geordan Murphy and up-and-coming Irish talents Ian Humphreys and Johnny Murphy already stationed at Welford Road, Hickie should fit right in.
He added: "I'm very close friends with Shane (Jennings) and I know Leo Cullen as well. I've spoken with Shane at great length and both of them speak very highly of the club. He told me all about the set-up of the club and the training structure. Shane has done incredibly well at Leicester."
Hickie joined Worcester from Leinster last November, but struggled to make an impact under director of rugby John Brain, making seven Guinness Premiership appearances for the Sixways club.
With George Chuter and James Buckland disputing the hooker berth at Leicester, former Ireland Under-19, Under-21 and "A" international Hickie will be up against it to earn game-time, but Tigers forwards coach Richard Cockerill reckons the Irishman can make his mark.
He said: "Gavin is still young at 25 years of age and has a very good pedigree. He has represented Ireland "A" and made nearly 50 appearances for Leinster in the Celtic League and Heineken Cup.
"He is a quality signing for us and will bring considerable competition for the number 2 shirt. His real strengths are that he is a good ball carrier and brings physicality and an excellent attitude to the game."