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Ireland's Dillane set for a timely Six Nations return

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland have been handed a significant injury boost ahead of their upcoming Six Nations campaign with the news that Ultan Dillane's ankle injury is not as bad as first feared.

The dynamic lock sustained ligament damage in the closing minutes of Connacht's inter-pro defeat to Ulster in Belfast before Christmas, raising fears that he could miss the Championship.

Ireland's attempts to regain the crown they surrendered to England last season begin with a trip to Murrayfield to face Scotland on February 4.

However, an injury update from Dillane's province yesterday said that the 23-year-old would be back in action in three to four weeks, putting him in line for a return just in time to influence Joe Schmidt's selection in the first two rounds.

The Kerry ace, who was born in France, made his Ireland debut almost 11 months ago against England in Twickenham.

He has gone on to win eight caps, with a solitary start coming against Canada at the Aviva Stadium back in November, and his projected return to fitness will boost a second-row unit that also includes Devin Toner, Donnacha Ryan and Ulster's Iain Henderson.

In addition, it provides a rare piece of positive injury news for PRO12 champions Connacht who currently have more than 20 senior players on the sidelines.

The Westerners have a real chance of making the Champions Cup quarter-finals after last month's historic home win over Wasps and face lowly Italians Zebre this weekend.

Their efforts have been undermined, however, by key absentees, especially at out-half.

But with numbers so light on the ground, Pat Lam's men also confirmed yesterday that they have made a trio of short-term additions.

Centre Tom Farrell will pitch up in Galway for the remainder of this season having moved from Bedford, while former Leinster Academy 10 Steve Crosbie has signed on after completing a short-term deal with Munster.

Prop Peter McCabe has also joined from Munster, however on a loan basis having appeared only twice in the colours of his native province.

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