Munster and Ireland have been dealt a big blow with the news that Keith Earls will be out of action for four months with a knee injury.
The versatile back has been struggling with a patellar tendon injury that he picked up over the off-season, and after consultation with a specialist it was decided that he will need an operation.
Earls had been hoping to manage the injury through conservative rehabilitation but it has now been decided that surgery will be required.
It’s not the first time Earls has struggled with knee problems, having already missed last year’s November Tests with patellar tendonitis.
In fact he has not featured for Ireland since the 2013 Six Nations.
The surgery also means he is all but certain to miss the whole of Munster’s Champions Cup pool campaign, while he faces a race to be fit for next year’s Six Nations.
“Keith was, a couple of weeks ago, penciled in for a return in this game [against Leinster on Saturday],” said Munster head coach Anthony Foley.
“That’s what we were looking at about three or four weeks ago. Unfortunately, on his return, he was sidestepping and felt something in his knee.
“We had to go and get that further investigated. We did and it’s obviously meant surgery today. Our thoughts are with Keith.
“I think he’s played nine games for Munster over the last season, so we just want him fit, healthy and back playing for Munster.”