10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
A thumb injury has ruled Ireland lock Paul O'Connell out of action for up to six weeks. The 25-year-old sustained the blow whilst playing for Munster against Llanelli in last Friday's Celtic League tie.
The 2005 Lion, who was making his first appearance of the season for the province, has had his left hand placed in plaster after a consultation with an orthopaedic specialist.
O'Connell, who was taken off after 74 minutes against the Scarlets, underwent X-rays on the following day (Saturday), but these failed to pick any sign of a fracture. He was examined again yesterday (Monday) and following an MRI scan, was referred to the specialist. After the consultation, it was decided to put his injured hand into a protective cast.
The cast will be removed in about two weeks' time, at which point the specialist and medical staff will examine the hand again. The current projection is that he will resume playing in six weeks' time.
This means O'Connell will miss several Celtic League games as well as Munster's opening two pool games of the Heineken Cup. It is possible that he will be back in time for the permanent tsb Autumn internationals in November.
O'Connell said: "I have a plaster on the hand which I'm told will come off in about two weeks. Then they'll (medics) have a better idea how things are but I've been told I should be back in action in six weeks' time. So that's better than the original estimate (of ten weeks) and I'll take that as a positive."