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Duo ruled out of Ireland opener

Tommy Bowe and Jamie Heaslip will miss Ireland's RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy on Saturday week, it was confirmed.

The Ospreys wing and Leinster number eight saw specialists for an assessment of their respective knee and ankle problems and were subsequently ruled out of the trip to Rome.

A date has yet to be set for Bowe's return while Heaslip could return in time to face France on February 13, according to a statement released by the Irish Rugby Football Union.

It is a major blow to head coach Declan Kidney, who must begin the tournament without two of his most consistent performers.

Heaslip was magnificent during the autumn series while Bowe has emerged as one of Ireland's most effective strike runners.

The race will now be on to restore them to fitness for the visit of France, the defending champions, to the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland's injury list already included John Hayes, Shane Horgan, Geordan Murphy, Andrew Trimble, Rob Kearney and Jerry Flannery.

"You never like to see guys injured - we know how much playing for Ireland means to those guys," said Kidney. "We've tried to build a squad over the last few years and this will be the test of that.

"I have a huge belief in the way Irish rugby comes from the grass roots up.

"Of course there won't be as much video analysis on the new guys so that will be an advantage."


From Belfast Telegraph