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Iain Henderson suffers fresh injury blow ahead of Six Nations while another Ulster forward faces surgery

By Gareth Hanna

Iain Henderson's Six Nations hopes have suffered a fresh blow after the lock picked up another injury during Ulster's European Cup game last weekend.

Ulster Rugby have confirmed that Henderson is now out for 'several weeks' after sustaining a finger injury during his province's 14-13 win over Leicester Tigers on Saturday.

With Ireland's opening fixture at home to England less than two weeks away, Ireland are set to face both games without Henderson. It's particularly unwanted news given that it follows just hours after confirmation that fellow second row Tadhg Beirne will miss those two opening fixtures.

Connacht's Quinn Roux has been called up as a replacement for the Munster man but this news is a further unwanted complication for Joe Schmidt, whose squad go to Portugal to begin their preparation for the tournament this week.

Ulster have stressed that Henderson's new concern is unrelated to the thumb surgery the lock had undergone in December. He had made a phenomenal comeback to start Ulster's game on Saturday, over a month ahead of schedule, but just as it seemed he would play a key role in Ireland's Six Nations campaign, he now faces a race to return.

After Ireland's opening two games, there is then a break until the trip to Italy on February 23 and another pause in play before the final double header sees the Irish host France and go to Wales in March.

Meanwhile, Ulster look set to be without three more players for Friday evening's PRO14 game at home to Benetton Forward Sean Reidy faces surgery on a hand injury sustained in Saturday's win while Marcell Coetzee is likely to miss out with a hamstring issue. Billy Burns will follow return-to-play protocols after his concussion at Welford Road but is thought to be unlikely to play this weekend.

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