Ireland is set to defend their Six Nations crown without two of their biggest weapons, with Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien both set for a stint on the sidelines.
The news will come as a huge setback for coach Andy Farrell as he prepares for his opening match of the Six Nations against France.
Connacht announced that Hansen will be undergoing surgery for a dislocated shoulder sustained in his side’s win over Munster in the URC on New Year’s Day, which will see the talented winger miss at least three to four months.
“It’s disappointing for us to lose Mack for such a period of time,” Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins told RTE Sport.
“Obviously there’ll be a knock-on effect to the Irish campaign in the Six Nations and most of all disappointment for Mack.
“He was starting to find some form and rhythm having been a little bit stop-start since the World Cup.
“Everyone loses out in that sense and the fans will miss watching him play as well so it’s up to us to fill that gap and other players get a chance to step up.
“He’s not lost his sense of humour, thankfully, he was in with us at the end of last week so very much around the place albeit in a sling.
“He’s gone off for surgery today. We’ve had lots of contact with him. It’s about trying to keep his spirits up. The key thing is to get this surgery and these initial couple of days out of the way and you can start on that rehab campaign.
“He’s had a shoulder injury before, a similar injury when he was at Brumbies in Australia so although that’s unfortunate to have it twice, at the same time he’s familiar with the surgical process, familiar with rehab and that length of time.”
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While Hansen was a considerable loss for Andy Farrell’s campaign, the casualty ward has expanded since after Leinster revealed O’Brien has picked up a neck injury and will be unavailable “for a number of months”.
The pair join prop Dave Kilcoyne in missing the Six Nations, who is set to have six months with a shoulder injury. Farrell will have to re-assess many options for his starting squad, with Ireland set to open their campaign against France in Marseille on February 2nd.