Heaslip was forced to leave the field in some discomfort. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Fractures to three vertebrae mean Jamie Heaslip is out of the England game

The Ireland number eight may also miss the clash with Wales later next month.

JAMIE HEASLIP FACES approximately four weeks on the sidelines after it was confirmed that he has suffered fractures to three vertebrae in his back.

An IRFU statement this evening said scans performed on the number eight following Saturday’s win over France revealed “fractures of the transverse process of three vertebrae” in his back.

The medical update states that although “this injury causes a good deal of discomfort, it does not impact on the structural integrity of the spine, and once healed should pose no long-term issues.

“Typically this injury is treated akin to a soft tissue injury; according to symptoms.”

It is a relief that Heaslip’s longer-term health is not in doubt, although Joe Schmidt will now be without the back row for the Six Nations clash with England on 1 March, and possibly the away fixture against Wales on 14 March.

A four-week time frame for recovery means Heaslip would come back into contention for the final day meeting with Scotland on 21 March, although that depends on the speed and success of the healing.

The injury occurred in the 53rd minute of Saturday’s game, when Pascal Papé’s knee connected with Heaslip’s lower back. The Ireland back row played on for a further six minutes, before succumbing to the pain and limping off to be replaced by Jordi Murphy.

Jamie Heaslip leaves the field injured Heaslip attempted to play on, but was forced to leave the pitch with 20 minutes remaining. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

It was confirmed today by the Six Nations that Papé has been cited by Saturday’s independent commissioner under Law 10.4 (a), which prohibits players from striking opponents with the knee.

If the France lock is found guilty of a deliberate offence, he faces a suspension ranging from a low-end of four weeks right up to a top-end sanction of 16 to 104 weeks.

Ireland also confirmed that prop James Cronin had a “a minor knee procedure” following an injury in the clash with Italy two weekends ago. He has returned to Munster to proceed with rehabilitation and is said to be recovering well.

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