Iain Henderson injury is blow to Irish hopes of title smash and grab
Ulster star Iain Henderson is set to miss Ireland's Six Nations finale against Wales on Saturday after suffering a knee ligament injury and will be a doubt for his province's Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster in Dublin at the end of the month.
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Joe Schmidt's side are aiming for a fourth title in six years against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, although they not only need a win but also England to slip up against Scotland later in the day.
And now they'll have to do without one of their British and Irish Lions forwards.
Henderson has endured a luckless run of injuries starting with a broken finger against the Scarlets back in December. It was thought then that he may be ruled out of the championship, only to make his return for Ulster in the Champions Cup win over Leicester Tigers.
He picked up another injury there but was back on the bench against Italy and then started against France last week.
His performance alongside James Ryan in the second-row was one of his best in an Ireland starter's jersey for some time and it will be a bitter disappointment to be robbed of the chance to build upon it in the last full-blooded Test before the World Cup opener against Scotland in September. The options to replace him in the second-row should come down to a straight shoot-out between Munster's Tadhg Beirne and Connacht's Ultan Dillane.
That will become clear when Schmidt names his team to face Wales this lunchtime at the squad's Carton House base in Kildare.