Mack Hansen will miss Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations title defence after undergoing surgery on the dislocated shoulder he suffered against Munster on New Year’s Day.
Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins explained that Hansen ‘injured his shoulder, receiving a cleanout at a breakdown’ late on during their 22-9 derby win at the Sportsground last week.
It has already been a stop-start season for the versatile 25-year-old back who played in his first Rugby World Cup, scoring tries against Tonga and South Africa. He returned home with a foot injury which he aggravated against Bordeaux-Bègles last month.
There was relief that surgery was not required then, but Hansen has had to go under the knife this time and he is set to miss the next three to four months, leaving out of both Wilkins and Andy Farrell’s plans for the immediate future.
Speaking ahead of the westerners’ Investec Champions Cup trip to Lyon this weekend, Wilkins said: “It’s disappointing for us to lose Mack for such a period of time. Obviously there’ll be a knock-on effect to the Irish campaign in the Six Nations and most of all disappointment for Mack.
“He was starting to find some form and rhythm having been a little bit stop-start since the World Cup.
“Everyone loses out in that sense and the fans will miss watching him play as well so it’s up to us to fill that gap and other players get a chance to step up.
He’s not lost his sense of humour, thankfully, he was in with us at the end of last week so very much around the place albeit in a sling. He’s gone off for surgery today. We’ve had lots of contact with him.
“It’s about trying to keep his spirits up. The key thing is to get this surgery and these initial couple of days out of the way and you can start on that rehab campaign.
“He’s had a shoulder injury before, a similar injury when he was at Brumbies in Australia so although that’s unfortunate to have it twice, at the same time he’s familiar with the surgical process, familiar with rehab and that length of time.”
From an Ireland perspective, Hansen has grown into a key member of the back-line, scoring nine tries from the wing in 21 Tests and showcasing his playmaking skills to set up a number of other scores.
He was nominated for the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship award following Ireland’s Grand Slam success. He was the player-of-the-match against Italy and Scotland last spring, and also in August’s World Cup warm-up game against England.
Meanwhile, a shoulder injury means Cathal Forde will also miss Connacht’s clash with Lyon, and Caolin Blade is undergoing the graduated return-to-play protocols and will be assessed later in the week.
Sean Jansen (abdomen) and Oisin McCormack (hamstring) have recovered from the injuries to boost the back row options, and despite Colm Reilly being out with an ankle injury and Blade rated as doubtful, Wilkins is confident in the province’s depth at scrum half.
“We have good depth around that scrum half position with Michael McDonald there. He has been playing well in the games he’s played,” he acknowledged.
“We have Matthew Devine from our Academy who is very highly thought of. He’s been training with us full-time since the start of pre-season.
“Tomas Farthing from our recent Under-19 squad, who is now in the Academy, is there as well. We’re happy with the players we have available in that position.”