Ireland and Wales have both been hit by setbacks ahead of the Six Nations with the loss of key players to injury, with Leinster centre Garry Ringrose set to miss Ireland’s opening games against France and Italy at least, and Ospreys flanker Dan Lydiate ruled out for the rest of the season as he needs surgery on an arm injury.
The loss of Ringrose is another blow for the talented Irish centre, having been dubbed the long-term replacement for the retired Brian O’Driscoll after exploding on the international scene against Australia in late 2016 before starring in last season’s Six Nations.
The 22-year-old was a surprise omission from the British and Irish Lions squad last summer and went on to tour Japan with Ireland only to suffer a shoulder injury that needed surgery, from which he only recently returned from. However, Ringrose limped out of Saturday’s 38-7 Pro14 victory over Ulster and will miss at least six weeks due to suffering syndesmosis of the ankle – coincidentally the same injury that his Leinster teammates Isa Nacewa, Barry Daly, Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy suffered from before Christmas.
Ringrose will almost certainly miss the trip to Paris on the opening weekend next month plus the visit of Italy to the Aviva Stadium the following week on Saturday 10 February, and remains a doubt to feature at all unless he can regain his fitness in time for the crucial visit of Wales on 24 February, Scotland two weeks late on 10 March and the final weekend encounter against England at Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day.
It leaves head coach Joe Schmidt with a selection dilemma in the centre, and he could look to partner Robbie Henshaw with Connacht’s Bundee Aki, who only qualified for Ireland on residency grounds last October and made his debut during the November autumn internationals.
While Lydiate has not featured for Wales when head coach Warren Gatland has a fully fit squad available – largely due to his persistent injury troubles – the loss of the influential blindside flanker is a huge blow given that both Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau are already expected to miss the entire championship.
The 30-year-old – who holds 62 international caps – was forced off during Ospreys’ 22-9 win at the Dragons last week with an injury to his left arm, and the Welsh region confirmed on Tuesday that he will need surgery on a biceps injury that will sideline him for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.
“The decision has been taken in Dan’s best interests to undergo surgery,” Ospreys said in a club statement. Along with Warburton and Faletau, Gatland has been unable to call on Gloucester flanker Ross Moriarty, although the Dragons-bound forward has returned to training for the first time since the Lions tour after recovering from a back injury and could yet be named in the Kiwi’s Six Nations squad, which is announced a week on Wednesday.
Wales will also be without influential centre Jonathan Davies due to the foot injury he suffered during the autumn internationals that has ended his season, while Dragons wing Hallam Amos and Saracens’ Liam Williams are also injury doubts after suffering ankle and groin injuries respectively towards the back end of 2017.