Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery is in a race against time to be fit for the start of the RBS 6 Nations in February.
The 31-year-old picked up an Achilles injury last week and was forced to sit out Munster’s Heineken Cup win over Perpignan on Friday.
Ireland kick off the defence of the crown against Italy at Croke Park on February 6 – but coach Declan Kidney now faces a selection headache at the front of his scrum.
If Flannery – who is expected to undergo exploratory surgery this week – is ruled out he would join Rory Best on the sidelines.
Connacht rookie Sean Cronin - who made his debut for Ireland in the 41-6 win over Fiji in November – is the next likely choice although debuts could be handed to Fogarty brothers John, 32, and Denis 26 should Flannery be ruled out.