Iain Henderson targets early Six Nations return with another rapid injury recovery
Hopes are high that Iain Henderson could be on track to make another early return from his latest injury.
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Even though Ireland coach Joe Schmidt yesterday stated that Henderson might only potentially be fit in March for, at best, the last two rounds of Six Nations action against France and Wales, it is believed that he may yet be ready for Ireland's third round game against Italy on February 24.
The 26-year-old lock picked up a finger injury last weekend when helping Ulster make the European Champions Cup quarter-finals at Leicester Tigers.
He had made a surprise return to face the Tigers after undergoing thumb surgery in December after his notable powers of recovery saw him able to play five weeks earlier than anticipated.
Indeed, Schmidt had, earlier last week, already named the Ulsterman in his extended squad for the first two rounds of Six Nations action as Ireland bid to secure back-to-back Six Nations titles and a first ever Grand Slam double.
Though his finger injury has ruled him out of next week's opener at home to England, and the trip to Scotland, it is believed that he could play again in just over four weeks' time when Ireland go to Rome.
This will also be a boost for Ulster, who will need Henderson fighting fit to face Leinster in Dublin for the European quarter-final at the end of March.
Ireland skipper Rory Best has spoken of a "boring" approach to retaining the title in what is likely to be his final Six Nations.
"It's boring, it's not just a cliché for us, but that's the way we go about things in that we have to make sure we win each moment that we can," he said at the tournament launch.
Meanwhile, Schmidt has confirmed that out-half Johnny Sexton should be fit to face England.