A neck injury will keep Jimmy O’Brien out of Ireland’s upcoming Guinness Six Nations campaign, a Leinster injury update has revealed.
It is a second quick-fire injury blow for Ireland in the back-three ranks, with Connacht confirming that Mack Hansen’s recovery from shoulder surgery will rule him out for three to four months.
Another member of the 2023 Rugby World Cup squad, Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne, will also be unavailable for the Six Nations and the rest of the season following his shoulder operation last week.
The Leinster update said that the injury means O’Brien, who has not played since the Investec Champions Cup win over Sale Sharks in mid-December, will be ‘unavailable for a number of months’.
However, in a timely boost, James Lowe is back training with the province and could be about to make his return from a foot injury.
His seasonal debut could come in Saturday’s pool match at home to Stade Francais, with Leinster senior coach Jacques Nienaber saying: “James trained last week, both sessions (on) Thursday and Friday, and he was in the mix today, so, yeah, he is training.
“I think from a medical point of view, they are layering in his involvements. So, as soon as we get the all clear from them that they are happy, and we are happy with his on-field training performance, I am sure he will be up for selection.”
O’Brien made his Six Nations debut against Italy last February, following up with another appearance off the bench during the Grand Slam-clinching win over England. For his World Cup bow, he replaced Hansen in the 55th minute of the quarter-final defeat to New Zealand.
The absence of the injured O’Brien and Hansen, as well as the retired Keith Earls, opens the door for some of the back-three players who did not make Andy Farrell’s 33-man World Cup selection.
They include Calvin Nash and Jacob Stockdale, who were both part of the Ireland training squad last summer, as well as Robert Baloucoune and Shane Daly, who both won their first caps during the 2021/22 season, and Jordan Larmour who toured New Zealand with the squad in 2022.
Meanwhile, Leinster co-captain James Ryan was withdrawn before the recent game against Ulster as a precaution. He will be further assessed this week before a final decision is made on selection.
There are no further updates on Charlie Ngatai (calf), Cormac Foley (shoulder), Ross Byrne (arm), and Jamie Osborne (shoulder), but Alex Soroka, who suffered a foot injury in training last week, will be unavailable for selection this week.
Fellow Academy graduate Martin Moloney has picked up a bicep injury and will be unavailable for a number of months. He had been getting game-time with Clontarf during the first half of the season, having recovered from a long-term knee injury.
Speaking about this weekend’s Aviva Stadium outing for the Pool 4 leaders (tickets are available to buy here), Nienaber added: “It will be awesome. I don’t have good memories of the Aviva when I was with Munster.
“We played there twice and lost twice and when I was with South Africa in 2022 we lost there as well. Hopefully I don’t bring that bad baggage with me into the team.
“I’m looking forward to it and I think it’s going to be a nice electric buzz. The fans have been exceptional in the support we got at the festive season games.”