Ireland's troubles deepened yesterday when Cian Healy was almost certainly ruled out of their forthcoming RBS 6 Nations trip to face Scotland at Murrayfield, having been banned for three weeks for stamping on an opponent's leg during Sunday's loss to England in Dublin.
The Leinster loosehead prop has the right to appeal but, if he decided not to do so or is unsuccessful, he will be out of action until March 10.
His absence will go a long way towards balancing the sides, since Scotland will be without first-choice tighthead prop Euan Murray, as he refuses to play on Sundays.
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The Scots came through last weekend's win over Italy relatively unscathed, but Ireland counted a heavy additional cost following their loss. As well as Healy, they look certain to be without Jonny Sexton, his Leinster clubmate and fellow Lions contender, who suffered a hamstring strain, while Simon Zebo, the Munster winger who made a stunning championship debut the previous week, has definitely been ruled out of the rest of the championship with a broken foot.
Brian O'Driscoll, their iconic former captain, is to see a specialist to check on a damaged ankle, as will Donnacha Ryan, who has a back problem. Neither of them have been ruled out of the trip to Murrayfield so far, but Mike McCarthy has been listed as "doubtful" because of knee ligament damage.
Ireland's medics are more optimistic about the prospects for Rob Kearney, who has a dead leg, and Sean O'Brien, who left the field early with a tight hamstring which will be monitored in the week ahead.