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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 18 January, 2019
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Shock injury as Ireland's Henderson ruled out for up to three months

The Ulster second row is also likely to miss the majority of the Six Nations campaign after undergoing thumb surgery.

ULSTER HAVE BEEN dealt an unexpected injury blow with the news Iain Henderson has undergone thumb surgery and will be ruled out for a period of up to three months.

As well as being unavailable for the northern province’s crunch Heineken Champions Cup pool games against Racing 92 and Leicester Tigers in January, the Ireland second row is set to miss the majority of the Six Nations title defence.

Ireland’s Iain Henderson Henderson had been in good form for club and country. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Ulster this afternoon confirmed Henderson has undergone the procedure to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. The province say it is expected he will be unavailable for approximately 10 weeks.

Henderson had been in a rich vein of form for club and country, and scored a brace of tries during a standout performance for Ulster against Scarlets on Friday night as Dan McFarland’s side boosted their hopes of a first European quarter-final in five years. 

The timing of the operation means the 26-year-old will be sidelined for the crunch round five and six ties, and a 10-week layoff would rule him out of Ireland’s opening three Six Nations fixtures against England, Scotland and Italy. 

Joe Schmidt’s side face France on 10 March and Wales on 16 March, but a return to the Ireland squad would likely depend on if he can regain match fitness for Ulster in the Pro14, with their trip to Dragons on 3 March the obvious opportunity to do so. 

Henderson’s absence would present a window for Tadhg Beirne to stake his claim in the second row alongside Devin Toner, James Ryan and Quinn Roux, while it might also give Ultan Dillane a chance to force his way back into the reckoning.

As for Ulster, the loss of the 42-time capped international is a major blow, particularly when they were forced to bolster their second row resources last month with the loan signing of Ian Nagle from Leinster.  

McFarland’s side welcome Munster to Kingspan Stadium on Friday evening, before away inter-pros against Connacht and Leinster. They then face into those make-or-break games against Racing and Leicester in Europe before the Six Nations starts in February. 

Matthew Rea has also been ruled out for a period of 8-10 weeks after sustaining a thumb fracture playing for his club, Ballymena RFC, at the weekend.

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Ryan Bailey

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